I am interested in soil biota and their function in terrestrial ecosystem nutrient cycles. The soil component of ecosystems is amazingly diverse and structurally complex. Soil organisms include plant roots, mycorrhizal and saprophytic fungi, bacteria, and a multitude of soil fauna. Together, these form the detrital food web and are responsible for the decomposition of organic matter and the recycling of nutrients. Research in my laboratory investigates the interactions among plants and various types of soil organisms, with a general goal to learn about the biotic complexities that underlie responses of forest ecosystems to environmental change.
One aspect of our work examines the impacts of exotic earthworms on northeastern forest ecosystems. These large decomposer organisms completely alter the soil environment, and our studies test the consequences for other organisms in the detrital foodweb and for carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus biogeochemistry. Another aspect of our work explores plant and microbial responses to interactions among multiple nutrient elements (nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium), to better understand potential consequences of calcium depletion and nitrogen enrichment in forest ecosystems.