Czarnecki’s Collection Czarnecki’s legacy lives on in Texas diatom collection.
Dave Czarnecki, Ph.D., spent much of his career at Loras College as a professor in the biology program, focusing his attention on algal research, botany and field experiences in botany. Recently, the long-time diatom collector had the honor of having Encyonopsis Czarnecki posthumously named for him. This diatom, measuring only 10 micrometers long, bears the name of an enthusiastic diatomist. A diatom is a single-celled algae, but one of the largest and most significant groups of organisms on the plant. They can be found anywhere that is well-lit and wet, such as oceans, lakes, marshes, damp moss or rock faces. Diatoms produce much of the world’s oxygen and are important in many scientific investigations. Czarnecki’s love for science, specifically algae and diatoms, was evident throughout his life. He earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and biology from Bemidji State University and went on to receive his master’s degree from BSU also. He attended Northern Arizona University where he got his Ph.D. He moved to Minnesota after graduating, but shortly after accepted a position in the biology department at Loras, in 1984. His research and findings have been published in over 30 scientific journals. He continued to research and discover diatom rarities up until he lost his battle to cancer in May 2006. Czarnecki was nominated for and received much scholastic recognition, including a Friend of Science Award from the Iowa Academy of Science in 1998 and a Distinguished Alumni Award from BSU in 2006. He and his wife, Phyllis, have three daughters: Cara, Merri and Ann (’01). Czarnecki’s passion for diatoms led him to obtain the world’s largest diatom collection. It was kept and grew here, at Loras, for many years. The collection contains over 1,500 cultures. This large group of diatoms was used as a resource by many research labs and in a variety of studies around the world; from a study as an alternative source of oil to a space launch to examine the effect of weight loss on the growth of living organisms. After Czarnecki’s death, the collection was moved to the University of Texas at Austin where it lives on as the Loras College Freshwater Diatom Culture Collection in honor of Czarnecki’s service to the community of freshwater diatomists. It continues to be a valuable resource for many scientists.