Healthy soil is rich in organic matter, but scientists have yet to fully understand exactly how that organic matter is formed. Colorado State University soil scientist Cynthis Kallenbach has contributed new insight, offering evidence for microbial pathways being the chief originator of the organic matter found in stable soil carbon pools. Kallenbach, a postdoctoral researcher in the Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory, co-authored a recent Nature Communications paper on the topic with Professors Stuart Grandy and Serita Frey of the University of New Hampshire, where Kallenbach completed her Ph.D. She is working now with Matthew Wallenstein, assistant professor in ecosystem science and sustainability in the Warner College of Natural Resources. In the study, which was conducted at University of New Hampshire, Kallenbach et al. suggest that soil organic matter accumulates from inputs of dead microbial cells and microbial byproducts formed when microbes eat plant roots and residues, rather than from plants themselves, as previously thought.
In November 2015, an unprecedented experiment led by Colorado State University started about 25 miles north of Fort Collins. Bison, once native to the area, had been absent for over a century. That changed when the Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation herd was released onto a 1,000-acre pasture at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space. The monumental effort, the result of numerous partnerships, also provides unique research opportunities. Kate Wilkins, a Ph.D. candidate in ecology in the Warner College of Natural Resources, is studying the ecological and social impacts of reintroducing bison on the prairie. Wilkins began her research on the area prior to the reintroduction to establish a baseline. "I'm looking at birds, mammals and plants, and how they're affected by bison," Wilkins said. The CSU team conducted wildlife surveys using 60 cameras spread throughout the bison's range. This generated 174,000 photos in a single season. Wilkins and researchers are still reviewing more than 80,000 images to differentiate data points of animals from photos of grass blowing in the wind, which also triggered the motion-sensing cameras.
Two professors - who first met more than 20 years ago in Alaska - were reunited in May, further south in the much warmer location of Todos Santos. Both researchers study mammals that live in the sea and how those animals are adapted to their environments: Shane Kanatous, associate professor in Colorado State University's department of Biology, and Tania Zenteno-Savin, professor of environmental planning and conservation at Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste (CIBNOR) in La Paz, Baja California Sur, first met in Alaska during a Harbor seal research trip in Prince William Sound. Now, 20 years later, they have connected again through the CSU Todos Santos Center. Kanatous was team-teaching a CSU field marine biology course with Graham Peers from the Department of Biology. Their students explored the marine environment and discovering ways to learn from and interact with residents whose families have been living in the area for generations.[Archive]