Our laboratory focuses on a broad range of research topics and we work in a range of different ecosystems. The thread that runs through all our studies is a goal of understanding how the earth is changing and how humans interact with natural ecosystems. Sometimes, as with our studies of nutrient cycling, those studies focus on basic ecological processes. In other cases, particularly with our carbon cycle and dust research areas, the work is directed toward issues that have broad significance to society. We use a range of techniques and tools for our work including advanced analytical techniques and modeling approaches. You can find an annotated bibliography of work in some of the areas listed below as well as links to pdf files. A full list of lab publications is available here.
The Western US has changed dramatically in the past 200 years and development continues today. These changes have wide-ranging implications for ecosystems including changes in soils, vegetation and even climate. Our work focuses on understanding the implications of land use changes in the West including wind erosion of soils and dust deposition. We also have focused on C cycle and nutrient cycle changes that accompany or follow land use change. At present, we are developing new projects examining climate change scenarios and potential impacts in the intermountain west.
The carbon cycle lies at the heart of human-caused changes to climate, and the terrestrial components of the global carbon cycle are some of the most important but uncertain aspects of future projections of climate change. Within the terrestrial C cycle, soils are particularly important both because of the very large stocks of C in this reservoir and because the mechanisms that maintain the stability of C in soils remain uncertain. Each of the links below describes different aspects of our work and links to laboratory publications or products.
The essential and limiting nutrients such as N, P and the base cations control many aspects of how ecosystems function. Many of these cycles and particularly N (and perhaps P) have been drastically altered by human activity. Our work in nutrient cycling focuses on understanding how these element cycles influence biological systems and how they are controlled by environmental and physical factors.
Dust is an important part of the climate and biogeochemical systems of our planet. Dust can be made up of many different consitutents including minerals, organic contaminants and biological material. Dust deposition varies through time in conjunction with the glacial cycles but relatively little is known about how much human activity has altered contemporary dust fluxes. This latter question is a major research focus in our lab.