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News & Events

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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.
AGU Fall meeting logo
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Several Ecoss members presented at the 2015 AGU fall meeting. Topics ranged from permafrost C cycle responses to climate change,  to priming effects on soil C, to forest fires in the Arctic. Below you can find an overview of the presentations; click on the presentation title for more information at the AGU meeting page. Monday, December 14 Title: What Have We Learned About Arctic Carbon Since The First State of the Carbon Cycle Report? Time: 11:30 – 11:40 Location: Moscone West; 3014 By Ted Schuur Title: Can tree ring analysis predict resilience of black spruce forests to fire in interior Alaska? Time: 13:55 -14:10 Location: Moscone West; 3003 By Xanthe Walker Title: Getting to the root of the matter: Landscape implications of plant-fungal interactions for tree migration in Alaska Time: 14:10 - 14:25 Location: Moscone West; 3003 By Becky Hewitt Title:  Long-term Ecosystem Experiments, Data Assimilation, and Meta-Analysis...
Ember Morrissey with her job offer letter.
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Ember Morrissey Congratulations to Dr. Ember Morrissey, who will begin her new job as Assistant Professor of Environmental Microbiology at West Virginia University in January 2016. Professor Morrissey will join the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources & Design, where she will continue her cutting-edge research linking element cycling to microbial genomics and biodiversity in soil ecosystems. Professor Morrissey is seeking motivated PhD students to join her lab (visit http://plantandsoil.wvu.edu/graduate_programs for more information). We wish her all the best and look forward to continuing to collaborate as she begins this new exciting phase of her career.
An Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, drops approximately 700 gallons of water from a “Bambi Bucket” on to the Stetson Creek Fire near Cooper Landing, Alaska, June 17. Two AKARNG Black Hawk helicopters flew a total of 200 bucket missions, dumping more than 144,000 gallons of water on the 300-acre Stetson Creek Fire on the Kenai Peninsula. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Balinda O’Neal)
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An Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, drops approximately 700 gallons of water from a “Bambi Bucket” on to the Stetson Creek Fire near Cooper Landing, Alaska, June 17. Two AKARNG Black Hawk helicopters flew a total of 200 bucket missions, dumping more than 144,000 gallons of water on the 300-acre Stetson Creek Fire on the Kenai Peninsula. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Balinda O’Neal) Ecoss researcher Michelle Mack is leading a $1 million NASA-funded project to measure the extreme fire activity in boreal forests and its effects on arctic tundra. Based on the number of acres burned, 2015 is shaping up to be the second most extreme fire year during the past decade in North America’s boreal region. Historically, the area has had one or fewer extreme fire years per...
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