Exploring carbon and nutrient dynamics in the wake of human-accelerated environmental change
Research in our lab focuses on how plants and soil microbes influence carbon (C) and nutrient cycling, particularly in the wake of human-accelerated environmental change. Plants and soil microbes perform vital ecosystem services such as C storage and nutrient retention - processes that reduce the impacts of some of society’s greatest environmental threats (e.g. global climate change, water and air pollution, global food security). We use a complimentary suite of approaches that integrate field observations with controlled environmental systems to address questions that intersect plant physiological ecology and soil microbial ecology in an ecosystem context.
Much of our work focuses in the role of roots, “the hidden half” of plants. Roots are often considered to be passive portals for soil resources. However, there is an emerging view that roots, through their activities and interactions with soil microbes, actively alter ecosystem processes. The consequences of root-microbe interactions are critical, as these processes link the carbon, nutrient and water cycles in ecosystems, and have the potential to influence ecosystem dynamics and global climate change. Three major themes of our research include: 1. Root-microbial coupling of carbon and nutrient cycles 2. The role of tree species and their associated microbes in mediating biogeochemical processes 3. Feedbacks between plant-microbial activities and climate.