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News & Events

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Ectomycorrhizal fungi (the mushrooms connected to the roots of the tree) increase the uptake of nitrogen by the plant, even when that nutrient is scarce in soils. Artwork by Victor O. Leshyk. Bruce Hungate, Director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at Northern Arizona University, is one of the coauthors of this new study. He was surprised to find a symbiotic relationship between plants and a certain fungus boosted growth even without nitrogen. Hear about the study in this short broadcast by KNAU.
now hiring postdoc associate
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The Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss), a vibrant and growing research unit is seeking a postdoctoral research associate. The postdoctoral research associate will conduct research at the interface between quantitative ecology and microbial genomics in the Center for Ecosystem Science & Society at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. The postdoc will use tools in ecological modeling, molecular microbial ecology, bioinformatics, and statistics, to develop new quantitative models describing the influence of temperature on growth and carbon-use efficiency of microorganisms in soil. The work will involve computer modeling, with a minor component of laboratory work, as needed. The postdoc will collaborate with and help supervise two PhD students working on the same project. The postdoc will also collaborate with the multiple PIs involved in the project (Hungate, Schwartz, Dijkstra, Koch, and Mack) as well as with external collaborators...
Microscopic visual illustration of Ectomycorrhizal fungi on the roots of a tree.
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Ectomycorrhizal fungi (the mushrooms connected to the roots of the tree) increase the uptake of nitrogen by the plant, even when that nutrient is scarce in soils. Artwork by Victor O. Leshyk. Plants can grow faster as atmospheric CO2 concentrations increase, but only if they have enough nitrogen or partner with fungi that help them get it, according to new research published this week in Science. The study was lead by César Terrer Moreno, a PhD student at Imperial College London, and included researchers from Northern Arizona University, the University of Antwerp (Belgium), Indiana University, and New South Wales University (Australia). The team synthesized more than 80 past experiments, and they found that higher CO2 boosted plant growth, as long as the plants received enough nitrogen. Without added nitrogen, CO2 had no effect, confirming the long-standing idea that nitrogen limits...
Illustration of permafrost releasing carbon dioxide
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In thawing Arctic permafrost soils, carbon dioxide is produced by microbes in dry conditions, while both methane and carbon dioxide are produced by microbes in wet conditions. Artwork by Victor Leshyk. When it comes to climate change, not all carbon is created equal. Among greenhouse gases, methane is 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In this recent study published in Nature Climate Change, Northern Arizona University assistant research professor and lead author of the study, Christina Schädel, analyzed carbon release from 25 Arctic soil incubation studies to learn more about the conditions promoting either carbon dioxide or methane release. Read more about the findings of the study here  
Bogus Fire in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Matt Snyder/Associated Press
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In this June 2015 photo, smoke rises from the Bogus Creek Fire, one of two fires then burning in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Alaska. (Matt Snyder/Alaska Division of Forestry via Associated Press) This story in the Washington Post (June 3, 2016) provides details on a major and surprising new report from the U.S. Geological Survey. The document raises questions about what will be the true carbon consequences of Alaska’s ongoing warming. Ted Schuur, permafrost researcher at Ecoss says about the new study “It’s important to remember that these models are predicting both losses of soil carbon as well as new plant uptake and so it’s going to be critical to assess whether stimulated plant uptake by rising CO2 and the other factors really will compensate for soil carbon losses, because that’s the process that offsets emissions to the atmosphere,” Read...
NASA Space Telescope image of a cluster of starts
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This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the cluster Westerlund 2 and its surroundings has been released to celebrate Hubble’s 25th year in orbit and a quarter of a century of new discoveries, stunning images and outstanding science. The image’s central region, containing the star cluster, blends visible-light data taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys and near-infrared exposures taken by the Wide Field Camera 3. Science and Sentiment. What does it feel like to be a scientist? Check out this great video featuring scientists from Ecoss. Sonya Daw, writer/editor/videographer/producer.
kees jan van groenigen holding award
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Ecoss' own Kees Jan van Groenigen, Assistant Research Professor, received a Research and Creative Activity (RCA) Award from Northern Arizona University. Van Groenigen won the award in the category "most significant research/scholarly work" for his paper Faster Decomposition Under Increased Atmospheric CO2 Limits Soil Carbon Storage, published in Science in 2014. The RCA awards are given in recognition of the research, scholarly, and artistic achievements of NAU faculty and students—and their importance in serving our region and society. The other award recipients can be found here.
Circular color graphic shows the use of carbon and oxygen within different soil bacteria.
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Clustering in the use of carbon and oxygen shows an influence of evolutionary history on bacterial activity in soil. (Image courtesy Morrissey, et al. 2016.) The link between lineage and behavior has inspired research across the spectrum of life. For plants and animals, genetically close cousins tend to act in similar ways. Finches, for example, eat seeds, while swallows eat insects. For bacteria, however, the question is up for debate. Does evolutionary history predict how different types of bacteria behave and function? Or, conversely, do unrelated bacteria typically overlap each other’s functions, providing the same ecosystem services—a concept known as functional redundancy? The answer determines how much may be lost when strains of bacteria are lost from a soil community. Ecoss researchers at Northern Arizona University led by post-doctoral researcher Ember Morrissey—now an assistant professor of Environmental Microbiology at West...
permafrost landscape in toolik alaska

Scientists who study climate and ecosystems in the Arctic have weighed in on future changes in the region affecting soils, streams and wildfire, which will be releasing greater amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.Because the Arctic is home to billions of tons of naturally occurring carbon stored in frozen soil, researchers are turning their focus to trying to quantify potential effects of large-scale permafrost thawing. An expert assessment was published this month in Environmental Research Letters, which compiled quantitative input on the high-latitude carbon balance from 98 researchers including NAU’s Ted Schuur, Michelle Mack and Christina Schädel . Schädel, whose expertise includes permafrost carbon and plant ecophysiology, filled out the biomass survey evaluating changes in the boreal forest and arctic tundra non-soil biomass for four different warming scenarios and three different time frames: the short term, near...
science on tap poster with bruce hungate
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On January 5th, Bruce Hungate presented at Science on Tap at the Green Room, Flagstaff. Featuring an update on the Paris agreement (COP21), new science, legal intrigue, and what Elvis can teach us about climate models.
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