Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory

Cotrufo's Research Group




Bethany Avera

Bethany Avera,

Beth is a PhD student in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. She earned her B.S. at Clemson University in Soils and Sustainable Crop Systems. Upon graduation Beth had her first field research experience volunteering in Healy, AK, investigating the source and fate of carbon from experimentally thawed permafrost. This experience inspired her research interest in the influence of disturbance events and management on soil processes and the role soils play in mediating ecosystem response. Her Master’s research at Virginia Tech evaluated the success of tree plantings to re-establish soil biogeochemical processes on reclaimed surface mined land in southwest Virginia. Now, her PhD work focuses on evaluating the impacts of salvage logging beetle-killed lodgepole for bioenergy through analyzing logging residue removal on soil organic matter stocks and nitrogen retention and allocation.





Sarah Fulton-Smith

Sarah Fulton,

Sarah is a PhD student in Soil and Crop sciences at CSU and a fellow of the NSF IGERT in Multidisciplinary Approaches to Sustainable Bioenergy. Sarah obtained an MPA from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. She is using stable isotopes to study the decomposition of roots and plant residue in agricultural systems, and assess the role of roots in carbon and nitrogen cycling and contributions to C sequestration. Her interests are in sustainable land use for agricultural and bioenergy crop production, and finding synergies between increasing production and decreasing environmental impacts. More specifically, she wants to understand how agricultural management practices and cropping systems impact soil nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration.




Erika Foster

Erika Foster,

Erika is a PhD student in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. She graduated from the University of Montana with a B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation and Management, with an emphasis on Terrestrial Ecology and a B.A. in Environmental Studies, focusing on the interaction between humans and the natural environment. Her wide range of interests from sustainable agriculture to climate change science to ecosystem restoration and soil-plant interactions all coalesce in the study of biochar. She currently works on part of a larger research project on adapting agricultural management strategies to drought, specifically looking at the effects of biochar amendments mixed with manure on plant growth, soil water holding capacity, soil C sequestration, and various other soil properties.




Matt Ramlow

Matt Ramlow,

Matt is a PhD student in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. His undergraduate studies at Yale University concentrated on both the social and natural sciences exploring climate change policy and conducting paleoclimate research in a geochemistry lab. Upon graduating he worked in international voluntary and regulatory carbon markets focusing on carbon accounting, particularly within the agriculture and forestry sectors. This work lead to his increased interest in carbon sequestration in terrestrial ecosystems, GHG emissions from land use, nutrient cycling and climate change mitigation. Matt's graduate research, working with the Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies, will focus on the impacts of biochar soil amendments in both managed forest and agricultural ecosystems.




Yamina PresslerYamina Pressler,

Yamina is a PhD student in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Soil and Crop Sciences Department. She received a B.S. in Environmental Management with an emphasis on plant biology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Yamina's interests include soil ecology, carbon sequestration, soil organic matter, global change and science education. Her current research lies at the intersection of soil ecology and soil genesis where she studies the influence of bioturbation on deep soil carbon dynamics. In addition, her work includes a component of science education research in students of all age groups in order to understand how students learn complex concepts in ecology and soil science.







Michelle Haddix

Michelle Haddix,

Michelle is a Research Associate at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University. She got her bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2000 and her master's degree in Ecology at Colorado State University in 2007. She has worked on a variety of experiments studying soil organic matter dynamics and characterization with a focus on decomposition, temperature, and land use change. For the Cotrufo group, Michelle is studying litter decomposition with stable isotopes and black carbon quantification after fire.





Samanthan Mosier

Samantha Mosier,

Samantha is a PhD student in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. She received a B.S. in Environmental Science at The University of Michigan. She then continued her education at Michigan Technological University where she graduated with a M.S. in Applied Ecology. Her Master’s research involved assessing the interactive effects of climate change and fungal communities on the decomposition of wood-derived carbon in forest soils. Her interests include using stable isotopes to understand the stabilization and decomposition of soil organic matter as well as climate change science and sustainable land use practices,. She is currently researching the sustainability of southern pine plantations for biofuel production by analyzing soil carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emissions in relation to plantation site characteristics, management, and land use history.








Jennifer Soong

Jennifer Soong,

Jennifer recently received her PhD in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, at CSU and she is currently a Post Doc at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. Jenny's research uses stable isotope enrichment to study plant-soil-atmosphere carbon and nitrogen dynamics. She is interested in Ecosystem ecology, soil carbon sequestration, global climate change and microbial ecology. Along with her research, Jenny enjoys working with local students and teachers on K-12 science education. She is also actively involved with the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) chapter at CSU.








A.J. Horton completed his Master's Thesis "From Litter Decomposition to Soil Organic Matter Formation: Using Stable Isotopes to Determine the Fate of Carbon and Nitrogen." in the summer of 2014. He currently lives in Amarillo, Texas, and works for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as an environmental investigator. He plans on pursuing his passion for education by using his masters to teach at a local community college in the coming semesters.







Visiting Scientists


Zheng, Jiyong

Zheng, Jiyong,

Associated Professor in soil science, Institute of Soil and Water Conservation(ISWC,Chinese Academy of Sciences, China (also working with Northwest A&F Universtiy). Working with Professor Francesca studying the GHG effect of biochar addition into temporal soils as a visiting scholar in Nov. 2009 – Sep. 2011. My research interests include: Solute transportation and water movement in soil, soil nutrient dynamics in terrestrial ecosystem, application of biochar in soil amendment and degraded ecosystem restoration.