2019 – Fellow Project Opportunities

Below are the Summer 2019 USDA NIFA REEU research project opportunities for Fellows.

As part of the Letter of Introduction for the Application Package, applicants should note the top three (3) research opportunities they would like to pursue.

Francesca Cotrufo
Dr. Francesca Cotrufo
Carbon and Nutrient Cycling and Soil Ecology

Francesca Cotrufo is a soil ecologist and biogeochemist. She is Professor in the CSU Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and a Senior Scientist in the Natural Resource Ecology Lab. She earned a B.Sc. from the University of Naples, Italy in 1991 and a Ph.D. from Lancaster University, UK in 1995. Prior to joining CSU, she worked as a professor at the Second University of Naples, Italy. Francesca and her lab strive to advance understanding of the processes and drivers of carbon and nutrient cycling in soils across different ecosystems world-wide with relevance to climate mitigation, production of food, energy and fibers and soil health.

2019 Project: Dr. Cortrufo’s lab will have opportunities for hands-on field and laboratory research to investigate topics such as: plant inputs decomposition and formation of soil organic matter in corn fields and production and analyses of isotopically labelled plant tissues. Student fellows will be paired with a graduate student or Research Associate in the Cotrufo Lab to work on the topic of choice and should describe their specific research interests in their fellowship application.

Christopher Dorich
Agricultural Nitrous Oxide Emissions and Soil Health and Quality

Chris Dorich is a research associate in the CSU Natural Resource Ecology Lab (NREL) where he studies agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, carbon sequestration, and soil quality. He works with NREL Research Scientists and Principal Investigators, including Drs. Rich Conant and Keith Paustian, to investigate agricultural efficiency, resilience, and the interactions of agriculture and climate change. During Summer 2019, Chris will have research opportunities for two USDA NIFA REEU Felllows.

2019 Project #1: Improved Methodology and Estimation of N2O Emissions in Agriculture. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas that is primarily released from agriculture. As intensification of crop production is needed to meet a growing population, N2O emissions are likely to increase. Since N2O emissions are notoriously variable, improvements in estimates and methodology are needed in order to determine mitigation practices. This project will assist in current work being led by Dr. Rich Conant and Chris Dorich for the Global N2O Database to examine emissions data for improvements in gap-filling and estimation of N2O emissions data.

2019 Project #2: Review and Quantification of Soil Health and the Effect of Management Practice. Soil health and quality can impact drought/flooding resilience, crop production, and climate change. Understanding how management practices affect soil health is important for land managers, including farmers, ranchers, and conservationists. This project will assist in current work being lead by Dr. Keith Paustian and Chris Dorich to examine soil conservation practices to improve soil health in relation to carbon concentrations, water absorption, and drought resilience.

Terry Engle
Dr. Terry Engle
Mineral Metabolism in Beef Cattle

Trace minerals are an important part of beef cattle diets. Dr. Terry Engle’s research is focused on trace mineral metabolism in ruminants with primary emphasis on the molecular aspects of mineral absorption and the role of trace minerals in immune function and disease resistance in beef cattle.

2019 Project: Understanding trace mineral metabolism in beef cattle. This project requires: direct work with beef cattle; fecal, urine and tissue collection; cell culture work; laboratory analysis; and writing.

Megan Machmuller
Dr. Megan Machmuller
Microbial Interactions and Soil Ecology

Dr. Machmuller, a USDA NIFA Postdoctoral Fellow, focuses on research that addresses how microbes and their interactions with the surrounding environment regulate ecological processes important for soil health and ecosystem sustainability. In her lab, student fellows have the opportunity to learn different techniques used for plant, soil, and microbial analyses while contributing to research on topics such as (1) crop genotype effects on rhizosphere microbiome structure and function and (2) consequent benefits to crop health under different environments. Developing crops that take advantage of a beneficial microbiome can provide many cascading effects on crop health, including improved drought tolerance, nutrient use efficiency, and yield stability.

2019 Project: TBD in relation to student fellow interest. Candidates interested in working with Dr. Machmuller are encouraged to note their specific interest(s) in  microbially-mediated plant health in applying for the fellowship.

John Moore
Dr. John Moore
Soil Ecology

Dr. Moore, Director of the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory and Chair of the Department of Ecosystem Science & Sustainability, is an ecologist whose research has focused on the analysis of complex systems with an emphasis on biological and biogeochemical interactions in soil. In 2017, he mentored Felix Yepa through a research project focused on the Effect of Mammoth P on Arthropod Communities in an Agricultural System. In 2018, he mentored Gabe Contino on an evaluation of the Structure and Functionality of Soil Food Webs in Short-grass Steppe Ecosystems.

2019 Project: TBD in relation to student fellow interest. Candidates interested in working with Dr. Moore are encouraged to note their specific interest(s) in soil ecology research in applying for the fellowship.

Dr. Dhruba Naug
Honeybee and Honeybee Colony Performance

Dr. Naug is a professor in the CSU Department of Biology. His research focuses on the global decline in the population of honeybees and other pollinators which has been attributed to the action of various stressors. The capacity of an animal to deal with stress fundamentally depends on its physiology, and the current projects in the Naug lab center around understanding how different physiological variables drive performance in individual honeybees and how such inter-individual physiological differences impact colony performance. We use a variety of genetic, physiological and behavioral assays to address our questions, and working in the Naug lab will require participation in these assays as well as direct interaction with honeybees and honeybee colonies in lab and field settings.

2019 Project: TBD in relation to student fellow interest. Candidates interested in working with Dr. Naug are encouraged to note their specific interest(s) in honeybee and honeybee colony research in applying for the fellowship.

Stephen Pearce
Dr. Stephen Pearce
Wheat Functional Genomics

Dr. Stephen Pearce’s lab focuses on the application of molecular biology and genomics approaches to understand the genetic basis of traits of interest in wheat. Current research projects include applying CRISPR/Cas9 to characterize yield components, such as spikelet number and grain size, developing strategies to improve the nutritional quality of wheat and investigating the mechanisms of abiotic stress resistance, such as frost tolerance. Through an improved understanding of the genetic basis of these traits, our long-term research goals are to apply this knowledge to contribute to the development of higher-yielding wheat varieties with improved quality.

2019 Project: Will relate to lab research focus and could include characterization of mutant wheat lines for quality and yield traits

Meagan Schipanski
Dr. Meagan Schipanski
Sustainable Cropping Systems and Soil Health

Dr. Meagan Schipanski is an Assistant Professor of agroecology in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Colorado State University. Her research group applies systems-based approaches to improving the sustainability of cropping systems, including topics of crop diversity, soil health, nutrient and water management. Her work spans from on-farm research to greenhouse and modeling studies.

Our lab is investigating the combined management impacts of compost and grazing on different soil health parameters in irrigated and dryland pasture systems. The USDA NIFA REEU Fellow will have the opportunity to participate in field and lab work while learning about different plant, soil, and microbial analyses. A hands-on project related to the lab’s research focus will be developed to meet the interests of the Fellow in the area of plant-soil-microbiome interactions.

2019 Project: Soil Health Impacts of Infrequent Compost Application in Perennial Pastures

Gabriel Senay
Dr. Gabriel Senay
Landscape Evapotranspiration over Diverse Hydro-Climatic Regions

Dr. Gabriel Senay is a Research Physical Scientist with the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Center. He is a faculty affiliate with the CSU Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, and he also maintains an adjunct professor position with South Dakota State University where he has taught a graduate course in remote sensing of water resources.

Dr. Senay conducts applied research on water use and availability assessment as well as drought monitoring using satellite-derived data and hydrologic modeling. His research contributes to the development and dissemination of a suite of drought monitoring and early warning products through the Famine Early Warning Systems Network for Africa, Central America, and parts of Asia (https://earlywarning.usgs.gov/fews). Similarly, through the USGS Water Census program, he works on estimation and mapping of landscape water use dynamics and trends for the United States.

2019 Project: Dr. Senay plans to host a USDA NIFA REEU Fellow in research quantifying the relative differences in landscape evapotranspiration among different land cover types over diverse hydro-climatic regions. The project relies on geospatial analysis concepts and tools and familiarity with remote sensing and GIS principles and technologies.

Arathi Seshadri
Dr. Arathi Seshadri
Pollinator Floral Resources and Diversity

Pollinators, specifically bees, are important for the production of many fruits and vegetables that provide healthy food options for humans and for the pollination success in natural habitats. Our research is focused on understanding different aspects of plant-pollinator interactions, honey bee health and ecology of native bees. Ongoing projects include determining the role of nectar and pollen chemicals on honeybee health and understanding the factors that affect diversity and abundance of native bee species in natural, agricultural and urban landscapes.

2019 Project: Compare pollinator mix field trials for floral resources, bee diversity and visitation