Francesca Cotrufo

Student examins soil core sample
Measuring corn height
Students at test plot in crop field
Dr. Francesca Cotrufo pounding in sampling probe
Researcher setting up experiment on newly planted pine tree

Francesca Cotrufo - Staff

Bethany Avera,

Beth is a PhD student in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. She is a soil ecologist with interests in mycorrhizal fungi, soil organic matter formation and stabilization, and nutrient cycling in managed and disturbed natural ecosystems. She earned her B.S. at Clemson University in Soils and Sustainable Crop Systems. 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.

Rebecca Even,

Rebecca graduated with a B.S. in Ecosystem Science and Sustainability from Colorado State University. Her introduction to soil science began in the Student Undergraduate Participation in Ecological Research (SUPER) program where she conducted a preliminary research project assessing carbon sequestration potential in agroecosystems with deep-rooted crops. This sparked her passion to pursue a career in sustainable agriculture, especially given the challenges in food production as climate change advances and the population grows. After SUPER, she continued working in the Cotrufo Lab assisting multiple graduate students with their field and laboratory work. She is now a Research Associate and hopes to study the impacts of agroforestry systems on soil organic matter C and N dynamics in the future.

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.

Sarah Leichty,

Sarah is a Master’s student in  the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. She graduated from Iowa State University with a B.S. in Environmental Science with honors and a B.S. in Agronomy, with an emphasis on Soil Science and Environmental Quality. While working in the Sustainable Agroecosystems Group at Iowa State, Sarah developed an interest for understanding how nutrients cycle in various agricultural environments and what role this plays in managing agricultural systems for maximum productivity and environmental health. Sarah’s graduate research will focus on the formation of soil organic carbon under sprinkler-irrigated corn systems.

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.

Yamina Pressler,

Yamina is a PhD candidate in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology and Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory. She received a B.S. in Environmental Management with an emphasis in plant biology from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 2013. Broadly, Yamina’s research interests include soil ecology, soil food webs, biogeochemistry, fire ecology, pyrogenic carbon, and science education. Her dissertation research lies at the intersection of soil biology, disturbance ecology, and biogeochemistry where she investigates the effects of wild and prescribed fires on soil food webs and implications for ecosystem carbon cycling. She is particularly interested in the role of pyrogenic carbon in soil organic matter dynamics and belowground functioning. Yamina has a passion for science education where she investigates the use of systems thinking in ecology courses and works with K-12 educators to develop soil ecology curricular materials for their classrooms. Yamina also coaches the CSU Soil Judging Team.

Katie Rocci

Katie is an MS student in the Graduate Degree Program of Ecology, in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.S. in Earth Sciences, with a focus on Climate, and a minor in Environmental Conservation and Sustainability. Her research interests include soil biogeochemistry, nutrient cycling, GHG emissions, and how climate change and mitigation schemes are impacting these. Her current research focuses on using stable isotope labeling to understand the effect of biochar on soil N cycling and plant N use efficiency in agricultural systems. Additionally, she is interested in science education and promoting underrepresented groups in science.

Laura van der Pol,

Laura is a PhD student in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology and the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. Ever since studying ecology at the Semester in Environmental Sciences at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Laura has wanted to become an ecologist. Laura majored in environmental science at Wellesley College and, after some time on the high seas as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, worked as a research assistant studying terrestrial vegetation in the arctic of the Northern Slope of Alaska. Pursuing a passion for science and education, Laura taught high school science in Colorado Springs for several years before pursuing her graduate degree. Laura’s graduate research is in agroecosystems exploring how diversifying crop rotations with legumes affects the soil microbial communities and soil organic matter formation. Laura hopes to pursue research that supports sustainable agriculture and biodiversity in multi-use landscapes.


Erika Foster,

Erika completed her PhD in Ecology, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences in the Summer of 2018. Her dissertation research assessed how organic amendments, such as biochar and manure, impact soil water, carbon storage, and microbial nutrient cycling. Her research in agroecology on soil enzymes and microbial genomics now continues in her postdoctoral position at Purdue University. Erika currently works on the Soil Health, Impairment, and Vulnerability Assessment team of the Arequipa Nexus Institute for Food, Water, Energy, and the Environment in southern Peru. Here Erika examines the ecosystem effects of expanding agriculture into marginal lands that receive <100mm rainfall annual. She collaborates with researchers from the Universidad de San Augustin to build a Soil Health Assessment for both scientists and farmers in this desert region of Peru. Please find more information on current and past research projects on her webpage.

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.

Jennifer Soong,

Jenny received her PhD in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, at CSU in 2014. Her dissertation was titled “Moving beyond mass loss: advancing understanding about the fate of decomposing leaf litter and pyrogenic organic matter in the mineral soil”. Jenny co-taught the Soils and Global Change course at CSU and then went on to do a post doc at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. She currently works as a post doc at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

A.J. Horton

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 Scientist

Xiangping Tan,

Xiangping is a visiting scholar in Cotrufo group in Jan. 2017- Dec. 2017. His research uses stable isotope to assess the fate of C and N during litter decomposition. He received his PhD in Environmental Microbiology at Northwest A&F University in 2014. Xiangping is currently a post-doctor at the South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is interested in microbial extracellular enzymes (production, activity, kinetic and thermodynamic), linkages between microbial community structure and soil processes, and feedback mechanisms of microbial communities to environmental changes.

Jiang Xinyu

My research interests focus on soil ecology, such as soil C & N cycling, soil biochemistry, and soil microbial composition and function. My graduate research focused on soil C cycling and soil C sequestration. Now, most of my works focus on soil N cycling and its microbial driving mechanisms. I am currently an assistant professor in the Guangdong Institute of Eco-environmental Science & Technology. Visiting Scholar at Colorado State University from 2012-2014.

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.

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