Our Lab

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 & Sustainability

Affiliate Faculty Member
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Adjunct Professor
Department of Earth and Environmental Science

PhD 1987, Michigan State University
MS 1983, University of Idaho
BS 1981, Cum Laude, Ohio State University

Rima Upchurch
Lab Manager
I graduated from Agnes Scott College with a degree in Biology, and I received my MS in Microbiology from the University of Georgia. I have always been interested in using molecular techniques to study microbial ecology and community structure, especially in soils. During grad school, I came to realize the importance of bioinformatic tools as a way to gain insight into soil microbial communities. My time in the Zak lab, though, has shown me that while tools are important, it's the scientific framework and questions asked that drive discoveries in ecology.

Will Argiroff
SEAS PhD Student

Will is a microbial ecologist studying how fungi control carbon cycling. He is specifically interested in how changes in the species composition of fungal communities alter the amount of carbon stored in temperate forest soils. Prior to his PhD research at SEAS, Will completed a MS degree in Conservation Ecology and a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan, and was a laboratory technician. Will’s dissertation research focuses on how nitrogen availability in soil influences the abundance of fungi with different abilities to decompose plant litter, especially senesced fine tree roots. He uses high throughput sequencing paired with observational and experimental approaches to link environmental variables (e.g., nitrogen availability) to fungal community composition, fine root decomposition, and soil carbon storage in temperate forest ecosystems.

argiwill@umich.eduGoogle Scholar
Jennifer Wen
SEAS MS Student

I graduated with a BS in Environment at the University of Michigan in 2020. Currently, I am pursuing a MS in Conservation Ecology and starting my position as a research assistant in Zak Lab. My interests are in forest conservation, focusing on how the interactions between soil, plants, and microorganisms influence ecosystem health. By drawing upon microbial ecology for my thesis, I aim to explore different ways of understanding ecosystem-level changes in temperate and potentially boreal forests. In addition to my academic interests, I also enjoy camping, digital illustration, and just being in cold weather.

Recent Lab Alumni

Peter Pellitier
SEAS PhD Student, 2015-2020
Wes Bickford
EEB PhD Student, 2014-2019
Etienne Herrick
Research Technician 2018-2019

PhD Student, UM SEAS

Elizabeth Entwistle
SNRE PhD Student, 2008-2016
Zachary Freedman
Postdoctoral Researcher, 2012-2016
Assistant Professor, West Virginia University
Lauren Cline
SNRE PhD Student, 2010-2015

Computational Microbiologist, Bayer Crop Science

Anna Peschel
SNRE MS Student, 2012-2014
PhD Graduate Student, University of Minnesota
Huijie Gan
EEB PhD Student, 2008-2013
Postdoctoral Researcher, Cornell University
Sarah Eisenlord
Research Technician, 2008-2013 (MS 2008)
Research Scientist, Gas Technology Institute
Pat Micks
Research Technician, 2007-2012
Amanda Garzio-Hadzick
MS Student, 2010-2012

Water Resources Lab Director at Villanova University

Dana Thomas
MS Student, 2009-2011
Academic Advisor, NC State University
Kyle Whittinghill
Postdoctoral Researcher, 2010-2011
Lecturer, University of Pittsburg
Linda Van Diepen
Postdoctoral Researcher, 2009-2010
Assistant Professor, University of Wyoming
Sierra Patterson
MS Student, 2008-2010
Forest Botanist, US Forest Service
Karl Romanowicz
PhD Student, UM EEB
Sydney Salley
PhD Student in Geobiology, UC Davis
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