Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory

Research Bio

Dr. Colin Bell

 I completed my Ph.D. at Texas Tech University in 2009. My primary research over the past eight years has involved a long-term multidisciplinary study, in which biological, chemical, and physical characteristics of soils were measured to elucidate soil microbial and plant responses to climate variability.  I became a member of Matt Wallenstein’s lab at the NREL in August 2011. My initial research goals in Matt’s lab was to join the collaborative research team working at the prairie heating and elevated CO2 experimental site (PHACE) in Wyoming. The overall goal of this project was to characterize the effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 and increased temperatures on the metabolic and physiological characteristics of the plant community and soil microbial properties associated within plant rhizospheres in the mixed grass prairie.

My more recent research efforts have focused on plant-microbial relationships within the rhizosphere zone to identify mechanisms that may influence soil microbial taxonomic and functional differences among plant species. My longer-term research efforts include projects to assess soil microbial responses to seven years of increased precipitation variability in the Chihuahuan desert grasslands in BBNP. I have also conducted long-term studies in agroecosystems in the Texas High Plains in order to assess crop-sustainability issues regarding soil-functional responses to different cropping-management practices. Other projects have focused on understanding how changes in precipitation may offset the C-balance of Piñon-Juniper woodlands in the northern Chihuahuan Desert region at the Sevilleta LTER site.

Overall, my research interests are focused on determining the long-term impacts of climate change on soil microbial properties and ecosystem functional dynamics.  I am extremely interested into expanding my current research into other biomes such as woodland, lotic systems (i.e. biotic and physical-habitats of steams), and agro-ecosystems in response to climate change. Data to elucidate how changes in precipitation, soil temperature and / or elevated CO2 will affect ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling are critical to influence future land-management decisions for purposes of developing more sustainable restoration and management practices. I look forward to engaging in collaborative research efforts focused on how differing ecosystems will respond to climate change.