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NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology for FY 2011

---<br/><br/><br/>This action funds an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology for FY 2011, Intersections of Biology with Mathematical and Physical Sciences. The fellowship supports a research and training plan in a host laboratory for the Fellow at the intersection of biology with mathematics and geochemistry. The title of the research and training plan for this fellowship to Kerri Crawford is "Plant diversity and soil development in a primary successional ecosystem." The host institutions for this fellowship are the Washington University in St. Louis, Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis, and Indiana University Bloomington, and sponsoring scientists are Drs. Jonathan Chase, Pierre-Andre Jacinthe, and James Bever.<br/><br/>Soils provide services that are critical to ecosystem functioning. For example, plant growth is mediated by soil nutrients, and soils sequester a large amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The chemical and physical structure of soil determines its ability to fulfill these functions. Therefore, understanding what factors influence soil properties provides insights into preserving soil services. Plants and their associated microbes influence soil properties by altering nutrient cycling, soil stability, and the amount of soil organic matter. In primary successional ecosystems, such as the sand dunes along Lake Michigan - where this research is taking place, soil development has not yet occurred. This provides a unique opportunity to test what factors influence soil development. Furthermore, this experimental system allows for direct examination of soil development through time along chronosequences, where ecosystems of different ages are preserved along a spatial gradient. In this project, experimental tests of how plants and microbes influence soil development are being paired with observational studies along chronosequences, contributing to our understanding of the factors that influence soil functioning. <br/><br/>The training objectives include mathematical modeling and gaining knowledge of the role of soils in sequestration of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The broader impacts are directly applicable to restoration and conservation of the Great Lakes sand dunes, a critically endangered ecosystem. Outreach and educational activities include opportunities for undergraduates to engage in interdisciplinary environmental research.

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