Advance our understanding of biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nutrient elements in soil, providing important insight into regional and global element cycles which provide the basis for sustainable soil and land use management. Stabilization mechanisms of organic matter in soil nano-structures and the development of a biochar soil management technology that improves soil fertility, sequesters carbon and reduces off-site pollution. Research topics include: carbon sequestration in the context of climate change and black carbon dynamics; using synchrotron-based NEXAFS and FTIR for the micro- and nano-scale observation of biogeochemical cycles in soils; and the study of so-called Terra Preta de Indio (Amazonian Dark Earths), anthropogenic soils. Recent efforts include the combination of bio-energy and biochar applications to soil, which offer the opportunity to develop a carbon-negative energy technology which at the same time improves the environment.
Behavior of contaminants such as heavy metals at the soil-water interface in the environment, and soil health, as it is impacted by the contamination of soils by various waste materials, commercial fertilizers and manures. Protecting food crops from toxic metal contaminants, minimizing trace element deficiencies, and developing methods for testing and remediating contaminated soils. Use process-based measurements and state-of-the-art spectroscopic (e.g., XAS, FTIR, NMR), microscopic (e.g., TEM, SEM) and diffraction (e.g., XRD) methods to understand ecosystem element cycles and processes from the molecular to the field scale.
Soil Fertility/Plant Nutrition—Duxbury, Lauren, Lehmann, Melkonian, Moebius-Clune
Assessment of nitrogen and phosphorus cycle processes in agricultural soils with respect to enhancing plant nutrient uptake. Specific research topics include: improve fertilizer N recovery by crops; the functions and dynamics of soil organic matter; appropriate practices for management of soil organic matter.
Examination of the spatial distribution and variability of soil characteristics in urban and human influenced environments.
Assessment of pathogens in composting systems; microbial diversity, and relationships between microbial diversity, environmental characteristics, and ecosystem processes; methods to assess soil biological quality, remediate degraded soils, and improve soil management practices.
Examine the effects of agricultural management practices on soil ecology and soil microbial processes. Microbial diversity, and relationships between microbial diversity, environmental characteristics, and ecosystems processes; the development of soil health diagnostics; the impact of soil microbial diversity and community composition on agroecological function; and the use of environmental genomics to identify factors which impact bacterial population structure in soils at landscape and regional scales.
Soil Physics/Environmental Biophysics—van Es
Examination of physical soil characteristics that contribute to soil fertility, soil quality, transport and exchange processes in soils. Research topics include: soil physical tests to determine soil health; examination of natural porous media; transport theories; the exchange processes in soils.