Current Projects

Summarizing soil carbon responses to global environmental change

Soils hold the largest terrestrial store of C and thus, understanding their responses to global changes is crucial for predicting future C cycling. We used meta-analytical techniques to assess responses of two functionally different types of soil C; mineral associated organic C (MAOC) and particulate organic C (POC). We are in the process of publishing these results.

Project partners: Dr. Francesca Cotrufo & Dr. Jocelyn Lavallee

Local nitrogen pollution in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)

National parks are both places of exploration and places of conservation. Thus, it is important to understand how visitation affects park ecossytems. I am researching whether local N pollution from cars driving through the RMNP is affecting roadside ecosystems. We perfromed a proof-of-concept test in summer 2020 and plan to execute a complete project in summer 2021.

Project partners: Dr. Francesca Cotrufo & Dr. Jill Baron

Nutrient fertilization and soil carbon fractions

The response of soil C to nutrient fertilization is notoriously variable. To better understand this varaition, we are looking at the reponses of soil C fractions to nutrient fertilization across a global set of grasslands, in collaboration with the Nutrient Network. We are in the process of collecting data for this project.

Project partners: Dr. Francesca Cotrufo, Kaydee Barker, Nutrient Network scientists

Changing precipitation regimes and soil carbon

There is evidence to suggest that mineral-associated organic carbon (MAOC) may increase, while particulate organic carbon (POC) may decrease, under increased precipitation, leading to no change in total soil carbon but with important resturcturing of this globally important carbon pool. To investigate this, we will sample soils at a long-term irrigation experiment at an annually burned prairie in northeastern Kansas (Konza LTER) and investigate the soil organic carbon and pyrogenic carbon dynamics and their controls.

Project partners: Dr. Francesca Cotrufo and Dr. John Blair

Previous Projects

Biochar affects on seasonal nitrogen cycling in alfalfa

Biochar, a sustainable soil amendement that enhances carbon sequestration, is likely to affect other aspects of soil. We investigated whether biochar addition could affect seasonal dynamics of N cycling in an alfalfa field in semiarid Colorado. Surprisingly, we found minimal biochar effects, but strong seasonal dynamics in N cycling. This research suggests limited ability of co-benefits of biochar in this system. We published this work in Soil Systems in 2019.

Project Partners: Dr. Francesca Cotrufo, Dr. Steven Fonte, and Dr. Joseph von Fischer

Nitrogen fertilizer use and distribution as influence by biochar

Biochar, a sustainable soil amendement that enhances carbon sequestration, is likely to affect other aspects of soil. We assessed whether biochar diffeerntly affected soil and fertilizer N in a greenhouse study. We find that biochar had a stronger influence on fertilizer N but fairly limited effects overall. Details of this work are avaiable here.

Project partners: Dr. Francesca Cotrufo and Dr. Steven Fonte

Undergraduate research projects

Methane emissions and isotopic composition over a thaw gradient in a subarctic peatland. Mentor: Dr. Ruth Varner, UNH

Characterizing ice nucleating particles at the Western US Coast. Mentor: Dr. Sonia Kreidenweis, CSU

Plant and soil biogeochemistry over a bedrock gradient. Mentor: Dr. Julie Bryce, UNH