Our research group aims to learn how agricultural and reclamation practices influence microbial communities of soil-plant systems. We hypothesize that the kinds and functions of microorganisms in soils correlate with conditions (vegetation density, moisture, porosity, nutrient supply, disturbance and pH) created through management (crop diversity and density, tillage type and frequency, amendment type and application method).

We focus on microbial populations and processes involved in N cycling as well as transformations of other redox-active elements like Fe, and Mn. We use cultural, metagenomic, and biochemical approaches to evaluate microbial communities in the field and under more controlled conditions in soil mesocosms.

Of special interest are underexplored microbial metabolisms important in nutrient recycling, such as nitrite ammonification. We want to learn how plants, soils, and their associated microorganisms can be managed to improve soil and plant health, reduce nutrient losses, and promote ecosystem resilience.

Goals of ongoing research

  • Gain fundamental understanding of management effects on soil microbiomes in agroecosystems and reclamation sites, specifically populations involved in nitrogen cycle processes (i.e., N mineralization, nitrification, denitrification, nitrite ammonification)
  • Investigate roles of iron and manganese in soil nutrient cycling
  • Assess agroecosystem services provided by cyanobacterial crusts ("micro-cover crops") on arable soils
  • Develop land reclamation practices that promote beneficial soil microbe-plant interactions
  • Develop effective, informative methods for assessing soil biological health