Our Lab

The main focus of the research of the Soils lab is the interplay between soil microbial communities and nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. We hope to better understand the link between microbial, both fungal and bacterial, community composition and ecosystem functions, with an interest in how human activities (climate change, nitrogen deposition, etc.) affect this linkage. We combine data and information from microbial ecology, soil science and soil chemistry using methods from all these approaches to examine below-ground dynamics, and in particular as it relates to nutrient cycling.

Donald R. Zak

Alexander H. Smith Distinguished University Professor of Ecology,

Arthur F. Thurnau Professor,

Burton V. Barnes Collegiate Professor of Ecology

University of Michigan
School for Environment and Sustainability


Congrats to Jennifer!

Great news for Jennifer Wen, SEAS MS in the Zak lab. She was recently awarded the Peter and Carolyn Mertz Fellowship for her Master's work. This only highlights what we all know - she's pretty exceptional. Congrats to Jen!!
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Will’s paper is out!

Will Argrioff, a PhD in SEAs in the Zak lab, has recently published a paper, titled “Decay by ectomycorrhizal fungi couples soil organic matter to nitrogen availability” in Ecology Letters. In this study, interactions between soil nitrogen, fungal community composition and soil organic matter were examined to determine correlations for fungal communities with changes in N availability and SOM, especially lignin-derived SOM. It can be found here.  
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Paper out in Nature Communications

A new paper from the Zak lab. Peter Pellitier, former PhD from SEAs, has recently published a paper, titled “Ectomycorrhizal access to organic nitrogen mediates CO2 fertilization response in a dominant temperate tree”, in Nature Communications. This work focused on the linking metagenomic data for ECM fungi and modeling data for N-foraging traits for inorganic and SOM-bound N across a natural mineralization gradient and in response to iCO2. It can be found here.
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New paper from the Zak lab

Peter Pelliter, recent PhD from SEAs, has recently published a paper, titled “Coupled shifts in ectomycorrhizal communities and plant uptake of organic nitrogen along a soil gradient: An isotopic perspective”, which is out online on Ecosystems. The study characterized the ECM communities and various N pools (d15N) in an inorganic N gradient in soil to investigate if there any linkages between ECM community composition, N-SOM acquisition and foliar d15N. It can be found here.
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Wes Bickford’s paper is out!

Wes Bickford, recent PhD from EEB, has recently published a paper, titled “Differences in rhizosphere microbial communities between native and non‐native Phragmites australis may depend on stand density”, which is out online at Ecology and Evolution. The paper compares the rhizosphere soil microbiome, including bacteria, fungi and oomycetes, and the environmental conditions of a native and non-native Phragmites australis to explore the role of these communities and their influence on the invasiveness these plant lineages. It can be found here.
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Welcome Jennifer!

This fall we are welcoming a new student - Jennifer Wen! She recently graduated from UM from Program in the Environment and will be pursuing an MS in the Soils lab. She is interested in interactions between soil, plants and microbes and their influence on ecosystem health, so a super good fit for the lab. Welcome Jennifer!
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