I work to illuminate the tangled web of relationships between plants, microbes, soils, and the environment. My research focuses on plant-soil-microbe interactions in carbon and nitrogen cycling, with a particular eye for how complex interactions can result in unexpected phenomena. I approach my research from a variety of scales, ranging from examining microbial DNA in a tiny sample of soil, manipulating soil conditions in laboratory incubations, comparing field sites that make up natural gradients, and using meta-analysis to compare findings from around the world.
Soil carbon persistence and data-driven climate policy: Soil carbon sequestration, particularly through sustainable agricultural practices, is being promoted as a means of climate change mitigation. But, questions remain about the viability of this strategy. My current research explores the role of soil microbes in building soil carbon and what that means for the longevity of soil carbon sequestered through agricultural management practices. I am especially interested in how this knowledge can be translated into data-driven public policy incentivizing agricultural management strategies most likely to contribute to long-term soil carbon sequestration.
Plant-soil-microbe interactions in ecosystem nitrogen cycling:
- How the weathering of nitrogen-rich bedrock causes surprising changes to ecosystem nitrogen cycling in the California coast ranges
- Molybdenum and phosphorus limitation of free-living nitrogen fixation
- Plant reliance on mycorrhizal fungi for nitrogen acquisition in nutrient-limited environments
- How nitrogen-fixing trees alter metal cycling in soils (a collaboration with Dr. Steve Perakis of the USGS and Dr. Julie Pett-Ridge of Oregon State University)
- Examining soil nitrogen cycling at the microbial scale (using techniques ranging from quantitative PCR to high-throughput metagenomic sequencing)
Peatland ecology and biogeochemistry: I worked as a research assistant in Dr. Melanie Vile‘s peatland ecosystem ecology lab at Villanova University from 2009-2013. I completed my senior honors thesis, advised by Dr. Vile, on molybdenum and phosphorus limitation of nitrogen fixation in boreal peatlands in 2013.