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

Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Burton V. Barnes Collegiate Professor of Ecology

University of Michigan
School for Environment and Sustainability


Congrats Peter!

Congratulations to Peter Pellitier for completing and defending his dissertation, Ectomycorrhizal fungi differentially obtain N derived from soil organic matter: implications for community assembly and forest response to climate change on June 29th. Thanks to his committee for all their support, especially during this time, Don Zak (chair), Deborah Goldberg, Ines Ibáñez and Tim James. Peter has already published several manuscripts from his work here and the other chapters are in review. Peter will be moving (relatively) closer to his native land of Oregon since he has accepted a post-doc position in Kabir Peay's lab at Stanford. We all wish...
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Don Zak named ESA Fellow

Don has been named as a 2020 Ecological Society of America Fellow (announced here). This fellowship recognizes ESA members who have made "outstanding contributions to ... ecological knowledge". They are elected for life come from all fields of science that are connected to ESA. One other UM Faculty was elected this year and two other faculty to the Early Career Fellows (see here). The ESA announcement states that Don was "Elected for his pioneering research and leadership in microbial, ecosystem, and global change ecology that have revolutionized our understanding of how ecosystems acquire and cycle nutrients, and for his outstanding...
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Congrats Wes!

Congratulations to Wes Bickford for successfully defending his dissertation, Plant invasions and microbes: the interactive effects of plant-associated microbes on invasiveness of Phragmites australis, in December. Also congrats to his committee Deborah Goldberg (co-chair), Don Zak (co-chair), Ines Ibáñez, Tim James and Kurt P. Kowalski (USGS). Wes has been one of the busiest grad students I know. While doing research for his PhD, he continued to work at USGS, had to keep up with all the gossip in two separate labs and managed to have two beautiful children during his tenure. He is now back to a full-time position at...
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Goodbye Danielle!

Danielle Snow, who has been working alongside us in the Zak lab for a little over a year now, is finally settling into being in the USGS at the Great Lakes office. Fun fact, she's actually been working two jobs as she was hired for a full-time position in August, so I'm glad she'll have a chance to catch her breath a bit. Her work during her time here went the full gamut from field work to greenhouse to extractions to qpcr. That's a lot for a year-ish. While she may have started out as affiliate from USGS to help...
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Peter’s bark paper is out!

Peter and Sydney's paper on the endophyte microbiome of bark, titled "Environmental filtering structures fungal endophyte communities in tree bark" is out online in Molecular Ecology. In it they examine the inner bark of different tree species to determine if bark is a reservoir for fungal groups (spores, latent fungi) or structures the community as an environmental filter. It can be found here.
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Good luck to Etienne!

Etienne Herrick, our most recent molecular tech extraordinaire, is moving on from working in the Soils lab as she begins her life as a graduate student. Fortunately she won't be moving too far as she has joined the Blesh lab here at SEAS. During her time in the lab Etienne worked hard on perfecting ECM-colonized root tip DNA extractions and getting her PCR on. We also secretly (or not) loved her for all the delicious baked goods she brought in. We wish you all the best in your new role as a PhD student!
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