CRC Tier 2 Environmental Microbiology
Living with Lake Centre, Laurentian University
935 Ramsey Lake Road
t. 705-675-1151 ext. 4150
Microbial ecology and biogeochemistry of northern wetland and forest ecosystems; soil science; global and environmental change; natural resource management and ecosystem restoration
Soil microorganisms play vital, yet poorly characterized roles in ecosystems. My work explores the microbial role in wetland and forest biogeochemistry. In particular I focus on microbial responses to human-induced environmental changes that have consequences for greenhouse gas fluxes, nutrient, pollutant, and carbon dynamics, as well as broader ecosystem sustainability. Most of my current research projects are in applied settings (e.g. in managed forests) with important private sector and governmental research partners. However I have also an interest in exploring more general controls on microbial diversity in soils, links between diversity and activity, and am interested in how different soil microbial communities transform plant tissues into soil organic matter and then subsequently decompose this organic matter to mineral products, including greenhouse gases. Field research sites span the north temperate (Great Lakes St Lawrence Forest) and boreal forests of eastern and central Canada and peatlands (globally important carbon-accumulating wetlands with organic soils) across Canada and the USA.
Please contact me by email if you are interested in finding out more about doctoral, masters, or undergraduate research opportunities!!
Current students (at Laurentian University and the University of Toronto)
•Michael Carson (PhD student, Laurentian University)
•Jessica Arteaga (PhD student, Laurentian University)
•Jesse Hoage (MSc student, Laurentian University)
•Kurt Yakimovich (MSc student, Laurentian University; co-supervisor with Nadia Mykytczuk)
•Shanay Williams-Johnson (MSc student, Laurentian University; co-supervisor with Nadia Mykytczuk)
•Bryce Robinson (Undergrad honours researcher, Laurentian University)
•Jason Shabaga (PhD candidate, University of Toronto)
•Genevieve Noyce (PhD student, University of Toronto; co-supervisor with R Fulthorpe)
Past students (at Laurentian University and the University of Toronto)
•Carolyn Winsborough (PhD 2015)
•Galen Guo (MSc 2015)
•Adam Gorgolewski MSc-F 2015)
•Gurpreet Aulakh (undergraduate 2015)
•Jennifer Pichette (undergraduate 2015)
•Emily Smenderovac (MSc-F 2012-2014)
•Michael Preston (PhD 2009-2013)
•Michael McTavish (undergraduate 2010-12)
•Stephanie Pugliese (undergraduate 2011-12)
•Darcie McNeill (undergrad 2011-12)
•Tara Sackett (PDF 2010-12)
•Varun Gupta (MSc 2009-11; undergrad 2007-09)
•Aaron Godin (undergrad 2009-10)
•Kristine Haynes (undergrad 2009-10)
•Phil Rudz (undergrad 2009-10)
•Cori Armés (MSc 2007-9)
•Britney Myers (undergrad 2007-09)
•Natalia Voloshchuk (undergrad 2008-09)
•Carolyn Winsborough (undergrad 2008)
Education and professional experience:
•Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair (2013-) Laurentian University
•Editor (aka Associate Editor), FEMS Microbiology Letters (2015-)
•Associate Editor, Canadian Journal of Soil Science (2013-)
•Review Editor, Frontiers in Microbiology (2011-)
•I am on the Council (Eastern Councillor) of the Canadian Society of Soil Science (2015-2017)
•Associate Professor (2012-13) University of Toronto (Mississauga campus), Department of Geography
•Assistant Professor (2006-12) University of Toronto (Mississauga campus), Department of Geography
•Visiting Scientist (2006, via a UK Royal Society travel fellowship) University of Warwick, Coventry, U.K. Department of Biological Sciences (Prof. Colin Murrell, supervisor/host)
•Post-Doctoral Fellow (2004-06) University of British Columbia, Forest Sciences (Dr. SJ Grayston, supervisor)
•Ph.D. (2005) McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Department of Geography (Dr. TR Moore, supervisor)
•German Academic Exchange Society student fellow (2003) Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg, Germany (Dr. Peter Dunfield, supervisor)
•B.S. (1999) Cornell University, Ithaca, USA. Concentration in Natural Resources (Dr. JB Yavitt, supervisor)
Publications (on Google Scholar) http://scholar.google.ca/citations?user=ed1fimwAAAAJ
Current funded research projects
The functional role of microbial diversity in terrestrial ecosystems. This broad project is funded by a NSERC Discovery Grant and the Canada Research Chairs programme and is supporting research in Canadian peatland and forest ecosystems. Some of my key collaborators on this work are Kurt Smemo (Holden Arboretum), Joe Yavitt (Cornell University), Tim Moore (McGill University), Jim McLaughlin (Ontario Forest Research Institute), Brian Branfireun (Western University), Nadia Mykytczuk, Graeme Spiers, Peter Beckett and Daniel Campbell (Laurentian University) (2013-2018).
Fundamental studies of drying, combustion and ash properties of biomass, and impacts on boiler and pulp and paper mill operations.
This project is led by PI Professor Honghi Tran (University of Toronto Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry), 8 faculty members at the University of Toronto and Western University, and me. My role in this project is leading trials exploring wood ash (“waste” from biomass boilers) as forest fertilizer. This is in direct collaboration with Trevor Jones (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources), Paul Hazlett (Canadian Forest Service), John Caspersen (University of Toronto), Emma Horrigan (U-Links and the University of Toronto) and our industrial forestry and pulp and paper partners. Study sites are at the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve in Central Ontario (selection-managed Great Lakes St Lawrence forest) and near Chapleau Ontario (young plantation boreal forest). The project is supported by a large NSERC Collaborative Research and Development grant and a consortium of Canadian and international companies related to the forest sectors (2012- 2016).
An integrated multi-trophic assessment of the impact of biomass harvesting on forest sustainability.
This project is led by PI Christian Messier, T Work (UQàM Biological Sciences), Dominique Gravel (U Québec à Rimouski Biology), Isabelle Aubin, Kara Webster (Canadian Forest Service), and me. Other Canadian Forest Service (Paul Hazlett and Rob Flemming) and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (Dave Morris) scientists are also key collaborators. It explores ecological implications of excess biomass removal (to provide additional bioenergy feedstock) during forest harvest. My group’s role is focused primarily on soil and coarse woody debris microbial diversity and functioning. Study sites span from young to middle age plantation to old growth boreal forest near Chapleau, Ontario. The project is supported by a NSERC Collaborative Research and Development grant, Ontario Power Generation, and Tembec Inc. (2012- 2015).
Biomass harvests in boreal forests: minimizing environmental impacts and maximizing benefits.
This project is led by Han Chen, PI, Jian Wang, Chander Shahi, Amanda Diochon, (Lakehead University), Sean Thomas (University of Toronto), and me. Key collaborators are Resolute Forest Products, Rongzhou Man and Gordon Kayahara (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources) and Anthony Taylor (Canadian Forest Service). This project is using chronosequences of tree-length and whole-tree harvests and fire disturbances to explore issues of intensified forest biomass removal. Field sites are located northwest of Thunder Bay, Ontario. The project is supported by a NSERC Strategic Projects Grant (2012-2016).
Biochar as a soil amendment in northern forests: ecology, biogeochemistry, and bioenergy tradeoffs.
This project is led by Sean Thomas, PI, Sandy Smith, John Caspersen (University of Toronto Forestry), Myrna Simpson (University of Toronto Scarborough Physical and Environmental Sciences) and me. Key collaborators are Trevor Jones (Ontario Forest Research Institute) and Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve Ltd. My group’s role involves exploring how biochar additions alter soil microbial communities and nutrient cycling. The project is supported by a NSERC Strategic Projects Grant (2011-2015).
I teach BIOL20206EL Introduction to Microbiology, BIOL3026EL Applied and Environmental Microbiology, and BIOL4076EL Ecosystem Ecology at Laurentian.