Wednesday, December 9, 2015

New paper in PNAS: Negative effects of greater aridity on soil microbial abundance and diversity

As the planet warms, many of its dryer regions (~ 40% of the land surface), would be expected to become more arid. This is because heat drives evapotranspiration, and evapotranspiration strongly influences dry land soil moisture (even more than  the amount of precipitation that falls). Based on what we know of more arid climates, we might expect that increased aridity will result in less plant productivity. But what will happen to soil microbes? Plants and soil microbes are the twin pillars of ecosystem function. If they decline, we might also see a decline in the functions they contribute to such as the creation and maintenance of soil fertility. That would be further bad news.

So, how would somebody study the effect of increasing aridity on soil microbes at the global scale. Experimentally, you'd have to decrease rainfall input into soils or warm soils in several locations, then measure the diversity and abundance of the microbes. The problem is this gets expensive, and its hard to find research funding to spend in different areas of the world. Also, we'd have to pick one or two experimental treatments to focus on (for example, a 50% reduction of precipitation or a 2 degree warming of soils). We don't know for sure how climate change will play out in local areas, so we could be picking the wrong treatments if we went that route.

But, what if you wanted to do this for much less money, and at the same time increase the number of sites you sampled. You could just sample aridity gradients in many places around the world, and find the general relationship between aridity and microbial abundance and diversity. From that you could make predictions about what warming and increasing aridity would do to soil microbes without having to know how much aridity might increase.

This was all cooked up by Fernando Maestre several years ago when I was a post-doc in his lab at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Spain. He developed a set of methods that labs around the world could perform with just a little bit of funding, and accepted their soil samples for analysis. Then he assembled a team of collaborators around the world. I happily accepted a trip back to the US with my (now) wife, Becky Mau (ECOSS, NAU) to conduct some sampling stateside, and contribute to the effort. Other researchers have added value to this dataset, for example by getting new soil samples, properly preserving the DNA in the soils until molecular characterization of the soil microbiota could be performed by cooperators at University of Western Sydney, Australia.

We've collectively published a lot of cool studies from this sampling effort, and I'm happy to say the latest is out in PNAS. So, what about the microbes? It looks like both the abundance and diversity of both fungi and bacteria are likely to decline if aridity increases in a given dryland. Of a handful of  possible specific mechanisms, this seems most closely linked to less soil carbon in more arid regions, although the variation in temperature is also influential. Finally, on the bacterial side, there are also shifts in which phyla dominate the community as one goes from less to more arid sites.

Journal website

Press release from NAU news

Friday, November 27, 2015

Future of Northern Arizona's Lanscape Panel Discussion, Dec. 3 6:30 PM, Coconino Center for the Arts

Please come out to the Future of Northern Arizona Landscapes event next week. Three NAU School of Forestry professors will be presenting short talks and taking questions, along with 2 other speakers from NAU and the Grand Canyon Trust. For my part, I will focus on ways to assist migration of plants by co-migrating soil organisms. The event is sponsored by The Flagstaff Climate March and is one of a series of events coinciding with the COP 21 (UN Climate talks) meeting in Paris. Read more about it here

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Publication backlog post….three from earlier this year

The Spanish post-doctoral power trio is at it again. Somebody hire these men! Santi & Manu have published the results of our fun and productive road trip across the Colorado Plateau back in summer of 2012 (?), part of a global drylands dataset dreamed up by Fernando Maestre. Raul has published some more work from his N-deposition study using an array of study sites across Spain.

Soliveres S., Maestre F.T., Ulrich W., Manning P., Boch S., Bowker M.A., Prati D., Delgado-Baquerizo M., Quero J.L., Schoning I., Gallardo A., Weisser W., Muller J., Socher S.A., Garcia-Gomez M., Ochoa V., Schulze E.D., Fischer M., Allan E. 2015. Intransitive competition is widespread in plant communities and maintains their species richness. Ecology Letters 18:790-798.

Ochoa-Hueso R, Delgado-Baquerizo M, Gallardo A., Bowker M.A., Maestre F.T. Climatic conditions, soil fertility and atmospheric nitrogen deposition largely determine the structure and functioning of microbial communities in biocrust-dominated Mediterranean drylands. Plant and Soil doi:10.1007/s11104-015-2695y.

Delgado-Baquerizo M. Maestre F.T., Eldridge D.J., Bowker M.A., Ochoa V., Val J., Singh B.K. 2015. Biocrust-forming mosses mitigate the negative impacts of increasing aridity on ecosystem multifunctionality in drylands. New Phytologist doi:10.1111/nph.13688. 
(See also Research Highlight in Nature Plants Article Number 15177-15181).

Sunday, November 15, 2015

CRC Features our Biocrust Restoration work

This fall we set up two experiments at the Canyonlands Research Center. In the first, we transplanted intact biocrusts to three "home" or "away" locations from 1200, 1600 and 2000m to determine if biocrusts are best adapted to their home environment, and thus need to be locally sourced for restoration. In a second experiment, we are testing method to successfully establish greenhouse-cultivated biocrusts to the field to maximize success for future restoration efforts.

You can read the Fall 2015 CRC newsletter, the Sundial, which highlights our work along with others doing important work on biocrust and vascular plant restoration:

A rainbow over our newly-established biocrust common garden. Light rains welcome the biocrust transplants to their new home.

In a full-factorial experiment, we are testing methods to ease the transition of greenhouse cultivated biocrusts to the field to maximize establishment. Methods tested here include: hardening of inoculum, jute addition, and water addition for 2 weeks following introduction to the field.

Straw checkerboards show promise in stabilizing soils, and providing good habitat for biocrust establishment. We are testing it's effectiveness with no inoculum, greenhouse cultivated inoculum, or greenhouse cultivated and hardened inoculum.

Rooftop Mosscaping Project Begins on the Pods of the ARD Building at NAU

Today NAU grounds personnel and representatives from the Bowker Lab kicked off the first installation of biocrust mosses on a campus building roof.  The objective of the project is to create a zero maintenance and zero water input green space that can both sequester carbon and beautify the campus.

Much of the roof of the ARD building's Pods was already colonized by pioneer species of mosses including Bryum argenteum and Funari hygrometrica. These moss species, in addition to other species local to the greater Flagstaff area, were transplanted in a dense mosaic within view from the second floor of the building. This is the first of multiple efforts to develop the Pod roof, which will include native vascular plant species as well.

While mosses have been incorporated into green roof architecture globally, this concept has not been developed in the Southwestern US or other arid regions. The effort is the first of its kind, bringing biocrust restoration techniques developed at the Bowker lab to an urban context. We would like to thank NAU grounds for collaborating with University researchers to explore sustainable, climate conscious, landscaping.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Biocrust session in the books. Thanks!

The crusties & entourage taking over Dara Thai. We are stretching all the way to that back wall!

Huge thanks to everyone who made the biocrust session at the 13th Biennial Conference on Science & Management on the Colorado Plateau and Southwest Region a stunning success. Special thanks to the students who were the real organizers: Ana Giraldo (ASU), Carrie Havrilla (CU),  Chris Ives (NAU), Kristina Young (NAU). Thanks also the School of Forestry and Merriam-Powell Center (NAU), and USGS for making it all happen.

This is the third such session in a row, and the fourth if we go back a few years. 

We had friends and collaborators from as far as Missoula and Berkeley and Corvallis, and the usual suspects from Boulder, Moab, and Tempe.... cementing this as one of our favorite events. See you next time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Biocrust Special Session of the Biennial Conference of Science and Management on the Colorado Plateau & Southwest Region

The Biennial Conference is here at NAU next week, and we really excited about the speakers presenting at the Biocrust Special Session, which is happening on Wednesday, October 7th in Agassiz room.

Here is a link to the conference schedule, which includes the biocrust special session: Biennial Conference schedule

Lab members presenting include:
Anita Antoninka

Kristina Young

Matthew Bowker

Chris Ives

Also be sure to check out Mike Remke's talk on Tuesday in the Genetic and Genomic Approaches for Mitigating Impacts of Climate Change and Exotic Species Invasion on Wildlands – Invited Session.

Finally, there is one additional biocrust talk by Carla Roybal outside the special session in the Plant Ecology General Session on Thursday in the Fremont Room, don't miss it!:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Biocrust research with MPG Ranch(near Missoula, MT) is underway in the field and greenhouse! 

One might not think of biocrusts as critically important to ecosystem function in the intermountain west, but they are abundant, diverse and provide the same ecosystem functions we think about in more typical deserts. These functions include soil retention and stability, soil fertility and water capture.

Mosses and lichens are common under the canopies of shrubs and in plant interspaces.

In conjunction with MPG Ranch Researcher, Rebecca Durham, we have begun an extensive field survey to inventory the biocrust species present, as well as look for associations. We are interested to know how the biocrust community composition and abundance varies with aspect, elevation, soil types, and plant community. We are particularly interested to look for biocrust indicators found with native, invaded or otherwise disturbed plant communities. This information will help us set goals for restoration, and target species to use in restoration efforts.

Matt Bowker and Rebeccas Durham collecting biocrust data.
We recently completed the set up of two new new experiments using 5 moss and 3 lichen species collected from MPG Ranch.  The goals of these experiments are to:
1. Determine if we can grow these species, and if so, what conditions work best?
2. Look at competition/facilitation relationships among the lichens Diploschistes muscorum and Cladonia sp., and among the 5 moss species.
3. Determine which of these species might be best alone or in communities to use in field restoration experiments.

280 Experimental units are have been treated with various biocrust species alone or in mixes, and are being subjected to different watering regimes.

We're excited to note that our greenhouse biocrusts are already growing. We'll have results to share for filed and greenhouse work in the coming months.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Growing biocrust and putting it into the field!

I'm excited to share with you some photos of the amazing biocrust grown by the Bowker lab over the summer!

Here are some photos of the absolutely beautiful crust grown at the NAU greenhouse from inoculum collected in Bandelier National Monument.  We grew the crust for five months giving it plenty of water and comfortable growing conditions.  In July we harvested the grown crust and distributed the "bulked" (greenhouse grown) inoculum into experimental field plots in Bandelier National Monument.  In the below picture, you can see where biocrust has been scraped from the soil surface and collected to use for field inoculum.

The idea behind the project that Matt, myself, and our USGS colleagues developed is to see if the addition of biocrust, in combination with other restoration techniques, can help stabilize the actively eroding soils of Bandelier National Monument.  

Pictures like the one above show the incredible ability of cyanboacterial filaments to hold onto soil particles and thereby aggregate the soil surface together.   In the picture below you see the underside of a large chunk of biocrust.  We gently scraped off soil particles clinging to the underside of the crust, and exposed all the cyanobacterial filaments.  Pretty cool! 
We are interested to see if biocrust's ability to aggregate the soil surface, provide soil nutrients, and increase soil water retention may help to get Bandelier out of its cycle of erosion. In October we will go back to Bandelier to see if the field inoculum has grown.  Stay tuned for an update on the progress in late fall!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

MEGA Science on Tap Event, Sept. 17 2015, Green Room, Flagstaff

Come hear about our research at Science on Tap, tommorrow might at 5:30. Science and beer together at last!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lab members to present at the Ecological Society of America Meeting in Baltimore

OOS 6-9
Pairing Bouteloua gracilis with its "home-team" soil organisms enhances plant growth regardless of environmental conditions
Monday, August 10, 2015: 4:20 PM
327, Baltimore Convention Center

Michael Remke, Forestry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA
Matthew A. Bowker, School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA
Nancy C. Johnson, Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA


On the Colorado Plateau, land use changes and prolonged drought are negatively impacting native plants. Bouteloua gracilis is a native perennial grass on the Colorado Plateau that is obligate to soil organisms, such as mycorrhizal fungi. Plants and soil organisms may be locally adapted to one another suggesting that benefits from soil organisms are site specific. Some evidence exists that soil organisms from a dry environment are more efficient in mitigating plant responses to drought stress. It is unclear whether soil organisms and plants are co-adapted, or if soil organisms from novel environments facilitate plant adaptations to novel environments.  In this experiment, we conducted a greenhouse study to examine whether novel soil organisms would provide equal benefits to B. gracilis populations as natal soil organisms.  We also examined the lasting effects of exotic plant invasion on soil organism communities, and how these altered soil communities affect native grass growth. We used soil inocula and B. gracilis individuals from two different sites to determine the benefits received from novel versus natal soil organisms. We used live soil inoculum from an area invaded by Bromus tectorum to examine how altered soil organism communities alter plant growth.


We found that plants grown in association with soil organisms from their natal site were the tallest and grew fastest (p=0.0184). We also found that plants grown in association with B. tectorum invaded soil had the lowest establishment rates and were the shortest (p=0.0022). In addition, plant roots were more colonized by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi when paired with their home team soil organisms. These data suggests the symbiosis that occurs between B. gracilis and its soil organisms likely co-evolved and is site specific. Land managers should then be interested in preparing soil inoculum from seed collection sites to enhance performance of restoration projects in disturbed or invaded sites. In addition, B. tectorum appears to manipulate soil organism communities in a way that inhibits establishment of B. gracilis. This could be due to a reduction of mycorrhizal densities, or due to an accumulation of parasitic organisms. This negative plant-soil feedback has major implications for land managers interested in restoring landscapes invaded by B. tectorum. Matching plant populations with their natal, un-invaded soil organism communities could be the missing link in restoration following exotic species invasion.

COS 60-4
Biological soil crusts and global change: Spectrally monitoring moss responses to future climate change scenarios
Wednesday, August 12, 2015: 9:00 AM
318, Baltimore Convention Center

Kristina E. Young, School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA
Sasha C. Reed, Southwest Biological Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Moab, UT, USA


Dryland biological soil crusts - a community of mosses, lichens, cyanobacteria, and heterotrophs living at the soil surface - are a fundamental component of the structure and function of arid and semiarid ecosystems.  These soil communities play critical roles in dryand carbon fixation, nitrogen fixation, and soil stabilization, and existing data suggest biocrusts are sensitive to seemingly subtle changes in climate. For example, previous research on the Colorado Plateau showed dramatic mortality of the common moss Syntrichia caninervis in response to an increase in the frequency of small monsoonal rainfall events.  Yet, despite the importance of these biocrust organisms, our ability to monitor biocrust responses to altered climate remains limited.  Spectral imaging represents an under-exploited tool for documenting change within biological soil crust communities. Here, we induced stress within Syntrichia caninervis samples by increasing the frequency (twice weekly) of small (1.2mm) rainfall events, and used spectral analyses to monitor the moss’s progression towards eventual mortality.  We focused on a number of indices as potential tools for assessing change, including the Normalized Difference Vegetative Index (NDVI).  In addition, we concurrently examined shifts in nitrogen cycling within the soil matrix of stressed mosses to link moss stress, spectral imaging, and biogeochemical consequences.


As expected, mosses were strongly, negatively affected by the increased frequency of small rainfall events, and exhibited clear signs of chlorisis - a yellowing and reddening of moss leaves.  Belowground changes to biogeochemical cycling occurred in the form of decreasing NH4+ concentrations, and concurrently increasing NO3- concentrations, alluding to a steady progression towards NO3- dominance in the soil. These changes to soil N cycling occurred before significant moss stress became visibly apparent, implying that even early stress to moss has large implications for soil fertility.  We found spectral analyses an effective tool for quantify the progression towards chlorosis within this moss species, however, the NDVI wide band index that is widely used for remote sensing of vascular plants was an unexpectedly poor indicator of stress. Instead, narrow band hyperspectral indices were much more effective at quantifying chlorosis.  These findings suggest that the correctly employed hyperspectral images could be a valuable tool for documenting change within biological soil crust communities.  Tools such as these, which can document stress, will become increasingly important to dryland ecosystem assessment in light of the dramatic biogeochemical changes associated with moss mortality.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

International Conference on Mycorrhizae in FLAGSTAFF, NEXT WEEK!

It's next week, August 3 - 7. This is the 8th edition of the conference, and of all places in the world its right here in good 'ole Flagstaff thanks to Nancy Johnson and Kitty Gehring. Also big thanks to School of Forestry Director Jim Allen for supporting student attendance. In all, hundreds of researchers from 55 nations will be attending!

Read about it here:

You can speak to lab members at the School of Forestry table.

Also please check out these talks and posters by lab members:
LT 3-12
MycoDB: a global database for mycorrhizal meta-analyses

CHAUDHARY, V.B., A. Antoninka, J. Bever, J. Cannon, A. Craig, J. Duchicella, A. Frame, C. Gehring, M. Ha, M. Hart, J. Hopkins, B. Ji, N.C. Johnson, W. Kaonongbua, J. Karst, R. Koide, J. Lamit, L. McCormack, J. Meadow, B. Milligan, J. Moore, T. Pendergast, B. Piculell, B. Ramsby, M. Rúa, S. Simard, S. Shrestha, J. Umbanhower, W. Viechtbauer, L. Walters, G. Wilson, P. Zee and J. Hoeksema

LT 4-10
Community patterns of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal spores in the Serengeti

KRZNARICH, S., A. Antoninka, B.M. Stevens and N.C. Johnson

PS 4-24
The role of mycorrhizae and soil organism communities in restoring a native grass, Bouteloua gracilis,in the face of a dynamic climate and exotic species invasion

REMKE, M.J., M. Bowker and N.C. Johnson

LT 3-14
Home-field advantage. Does the geographic origin of plants, mycorrhizal fungi and soil determine plant responses to mycorrhizal symbioses?

RÚA, M.A., A. Antoninka, P.M. Antunes, V.B. Chaudhary, C. Gehring, L.J. Lamit, B.J. Piculell, J. Bever, C. Zabinski, J.F.
Meadow, M.J. Lajeunesse, B.G. Milligan, M. Gardes, J. Karst and J.D. Hoeksema

LT 1-8
Community of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and landscape fragmentation in a Mexican tropical rain forest

SÁNCHEZ-GALLEN, I., A. Antoninka, L.V. Hernández-Cuevas and J. Álvarez-Sánchez

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Introducing SEGA!

Near one of our sites, Red Mountain provides dramatic visual evidence to some of the unique edaphic conditions that exists on the Colorado Plateau 

It is with great excitement that I am writing to inform you all of the successful launch of our project on the Southwest Experimental Garden Array (SEGA).

The army of blue grama ready for dispersal to field sites

Perhaps you recall a mention of a project that uses six sites across an elevation gradient with unique soils to test a variety of plant responses to changing environmental conditions and the importance of both soil and soil biota in those changes.

Well, we started by growing Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama) from two Pinion Juniper Sites. We used soil and soil organisms from each of these sites as well as soil and soil organisms from the transplant sites. These transplant sites include a Pinion Juniper site (2 degrees Centigrade warmer), a desert grass land (three degrees centigrade warmer), and two Ponderosa Pine sites ( 2 and three degrees centigrade cooler). In summary, plants are either grown in all home soil environments (both physical soil and soil biota from the home site), home soil, but soil biota from the transplant site, soil from the transplant site and soil biota from the home site, and lastly all away (soil and soil biota from the transplant site).

The San Francisco Peaks stand through the haze of a June Wildfire above our plots at the Arboretum at Flagstaff. 

Now that these treatment combinations have been planted in the field, we will be able to test a variety of questions related to climate change, plant migration, and plant-soil interactions. For example, if a plant is to migrate to a new site as a result of climate change or human management action, is the plant hindered by growing in a novel soil environment? Can this hinderance be alleviated by the plant migrating with its natal soil biota? Perhaps the plant is actually released from native pathogens by moving to a novel soil type and experiences enhanced growth. In addition, we can test how plants may respond to a changing climate. Since we are using an elevational gradient to simulate warming, our transplant also experience drying, however, active irrigation and weather instruments allow us to add water to simply examine a warming effect. This is important because while most climate models agree on temperature trends in the Southwest, there is far less clarity on future precipitation regimes.

This project will help us understand how plants may respond to global change on the leading edge, core, and tailing edge of their distribution, and how soil may confound these predictions, thus filling several gaps in the literature. In addition to Blue grama, we are also in progress of preparing a parallel and similar experiment that focuses on Pinus ponderosa (Ponderosa Pine) that will be launched this Fall.

Katarina collects the first data set in the field with the Arboretum greenhouse and SEGA weather station in the background.

So far, we have put in thousands of man hours to sterilizing soil and preparing sites, to see plants in the ground is a very rewarded climax of the project. Data is already showing us that some soil environments are very detrimental to plant growth and both populations o Blue grama display home soil and soil biota advantage. Furthermore, home team soil biota provide an advantage for plants growing in unfavorable soil types.

This is visual assessment of some of our treatment effects, The circled plant on the left is growing in soil and soil biota from a novel site while the circled plant on the right is growing in soil and soil biota from its site of origin. One can clearly see the "home team advantage" in the much larger plant on the right. Now that these plants are in the real world we can observe if the home team advantage persists in novel climatic environments

This project has been made possible by many helping hands. We could not have done this without our fellow lab mates, past and present, the volunteers that have come out in the field with us from friends, to fellow students and even high school students from Flagstaff Highschool! Thanks to everyone!

Students from Flagstaff High School help Install the precipitation gauge at one of the SEGA sites. 

Stay tuned for more progress updates and data! These data will be presented at the Ecological Society of American Annual meeting and the Conference for Research on the Colorado Plateau! Hope to see some of you there!

Not far from multiple SEGA sites is the isolated portion of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here, a Pinion  Pine snag reminds us of the importance of understanding plant response to drought as a storm brings early spring moisture to the Rainbow Rim

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Undergraduate researchers being awesome

Laura Brown (mentored by Anita Antoninka) presents on microarthropod communities inhabiting biocrusts at NAU's UGRADS Symposium.

Harlan Tso (a former REU Scholar with us) presents his current work on the swimming efficiency at different water flow rates of natiev and non-native fish at NAU's UGRADS Symposium.

Danny DePinte (mentored by Matt Bowker) presents on the effects of adding biochar to soils on soil moisture and crop production. Danny is pciture here at the Hooper Undergraduate Symposium. He also presented at UGRADS.

Congratulations to our talented and bright undergraduate researchers, and to Lucas Molina who was awarded a Hooper Undergraduate Award to work with us starting next Fall.

So long to our visiting scholars from China

L to R: Matt Bowker, Yunge Zhao, Wuxian (Rose) Xu, Mingxiang Xu

As I work on the materials for my visa to visit China in August, I am reminded that this post is very much overdue. Yunge, Mingxiang, and their daughter Rose spent about 6 productive months here in Flagstaff. It was a great benefit for my students to get to know them, and for me to collaborate with them. Also, I personally will very much miss the dumplings. Goodbye and see you again soon.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Three new publications from the lab


Michael Remke, Julie Korb, and Heidi Steltzer

Alpine plant communities in high-elevation regions of the Rocky Mountains are likely to be sensitive to environmental change, but the relative impact of different factors is not well understood. Warming air and soil temperatures (driven by global climate change) and earlier snowmelt (sometimes driven by factors such as dust deposition on the snow surface during winter) are two separate but interacting factors that can influence growing season length, plant physiology, and environmental conditions. We designed experimental treatments with shade cloth placed on snow (to mimic dust deposition) and open-topped chambers (to warm soil and air temperatures); these treatments led to significantly earlier snowmelt and to measurable changes in environmental conditions. Multivariate analyses of the plant community revealed shifts in phenological events and community composition, even in the initial growth season. These results suggest the value in considering broad regional influences (such as dust transport from distant arid locations) on specific sensitive sites such as snow-dominated alpine communities.

Pages 271-280 In: Proceedings of the 12th Biennial Conference for Research on the Colorado Plateau.


(no abstract)
Kyle D Doherty, Anita J Antoninka, Matthew A Bowker, Sergio Velasco Ayuso, Nancy C. Johnson. 2015. A novel approach to cultivate biocrusts for restoration and experimentation. Ecological Restoration 33:13-16.


 Nico Eisenhauer, Matthew A. Bowker, James B. Grace, Jeff R. Powell.

In this perspectives paper we highlight a heretofore underused statistical method in soil ecological research, structural equation modeling (SEM). SEM is commonly used in the general ecological literature to develop causal understanding from observational data, but has been more slowly adopted by soil ecologists. We provide some basic information on the many advantages and possibilities associated with using SEM and provide some examples of how SEM can be used by soil ecologists to shift focus from describing patterns to developing causal understanding and inspiring new types of experimental tests. SEM is a promising tool to aid the growth of soil ecology as a discipline, particularly by supporting research that is increasingly hypothesis-driven and interdisciplinary, thus shining light into the black box of interactions belowground.

Pedobiologia  doi:10.1016/j.pedobi.2015.03.002

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Partnership with NAU Grounds for Biocrust Landscaping Projects on Campus

This morning I met with members of the NAU Grounds department to collect mosses for biocrust cultivation and landscaping of the facilities here at NAU. One of the projects discussed is the installation of a moss green roof on the Pods of the ARD building. The idea behind a moss roof is to have waterless, maintenance free, vegetation that sequesters carbon and looks beautiful. We made a substantial collection today, which will be used in this project. Thanks to Michael, Matt, Bryan, and Tom of NAU grounds for their eagerness and creativity in developing novel and appropriate landscaping for the future of the Southwest!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Bowker Lab member, Michael Remke, recognized as ARCS Scholar

The Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS), Phoenix Chapter recently awarded Michael Remke a Scholar Award for displaying success and achievement thus far in his scientific career. The award includes a sum of money for no strings attached spending and an honorary dinner and reception.

The ARCS Foundation advances science and technology in the United States by providing financial awards to academically outstanding U.S. citizens studying to complete degrees in science, engineering and medical research.
It is ARCS Foundation's belief that support of STEM education is essential to US economic growth and technological competitiveness, and helps to ensure continued US leadership in global innovation, health and quality of life. 
Michael Remke's research (see link) investigates the role soil organisms play in restoring native plants and facilitating plant survival in novel environments. His research thus far suggests that restoring plants with soil organisms from the plant population's site of origin, or home team soil organisms, may be an effective tool to restore and preserve ecosystem services in the face of a changing and dynamic climate. These same methods appear to be effective in restoring sites impacted by exotic species invasion. As Michael continues his research, he hopes to find creative and economically viable ways to incorporate his findings into landscape level efforts. 
For more information on the Scholar Award, see the below link. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

New radio show highlighting ecological research from the Colorado Plateau

Here is a link to the first installment in what will become a series of radio shows highlighting interesting and relevant research going on within the Colorado Plateau.  This show examines the consequences of changes to biogeochemical cycles (specifically nitrogen) in arid and semi-arid regions. Keep an eye out for a biocrust specific radio show in the future!

Monday, January 19, 2015

New collaboration and study site: MPG Ranch in Montana

Syntrichia ruralis

Peltigera rufescense

Thunderstorm over the Bitterroots.

Joshua Lisbon, Kyle Doherty and Philip Ramsey on the way up Mt. Baldy.

Soil surface from the same location as above, featuring Diploschistes muscorum and friends.

I am absolutely delighted to hear that we'll be able to initiate a new research collaboration with MPG Ranch in Montana this year. MPG Ranch features intriguing land use histories, steep environmental gradients, an active restoration program, and crusts...lots of 'em. Oh, and its absolutely beautiful and close to one of the best cities in the USA, Missoula. Emphatic thanks to Rebecca Durham, Philip Ramsey, Joshua Lisbon, and Dan Mummey for the excellent tour last summer, and assistance in developing this collaboration. We hope to make MPG Ranch a northern cornerstone of our biocrust restoration research program.