My lab is interested in the factors that control carbon and nutrient dynamics in soils, with a focus on the role of microbes and invertebrates. We particularly focus our research in two ecosystem types: polar deserts in Antarctica and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Our overall goal is to improve our mechanistic understanding of soil biogeochemical processes to improve predictions of the impacts of human-induced environmental change. By observing how processes change in response to human activities, we identify the drivers, controls, and pathways that are important in nutrient cycling.

I have addressed these topics in a variety of ecosystems (including a temperate deciduous forest, agricultural system, and polar and hot desert) to examine consequences for biogeochemistry of various types of human-induced environmental change (including species diversity loss, climate change, land use, and air pollution). My lab's primary research focus is on belowground soil biogeochemistry, but we maintain a broader perspective by including its connection with the aboveground plant and animal community (aboveground-belowground linkages), as well as its connection with neighboring aquatic ecosystems (terrestrial-aquatic linkages). Our research techniques largely rely on field experimentation coupled with laboratory analyses and experiments.

My current research examines soil nutrient cycling and soil biodiversity in deserts by focusing on both a polar desert (the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica) and a hot desert (the Sonoran Desert in Arizona). Despite a general appearance of uniformity and simplicity, desert soils have a high degree of spatial and temporal heterogeneity in soil properties, hydrologic regimes, and biological composition. We aim to understand this variability to predict how deserts (both hot and cold) will respond to various forms of global change. Given that arid and semi-arid ecosystems cover a third of Earth’s terrestrial surface and are increasing in extent due to desertification, understanding how deserts respond to human-induced change constitutes understanding the response of a large portion of the planet.

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