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Lab Group

Dr. Steven Fonte – Associate Professor 

I am an associate professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciencesat CSU. My background involves a mix of soils, agriculture, forestry and ecology. Rooted in these disciplines, my research largely focuses on plant-soil interactions, nutrient cycling, and management impacts on agroecosystem function, biodiversity, and sustainability across a broad array of ecological contexts. This work encompasses diverse efforts, ranging from studies to improve forage production and quality in grassland fallows of the Andean highlands, to exploring the effects of tillage and residue management on key ecosystem functions (e.g., productivity, water and nutrient regulation, C storage) on farms in rural Central America and Colorado. 

Steven Vanek

Dr. Steven Vanek -Research Scientist II 

See profile for Steve Vanek 

Kelly Courtland

Dr. Courtland Kelly – Affiliate Researcher/postdoc 

See website

Dr. Mark Caulfield – Affiliate Researcher 

I recently completed a PhD program in Farming System Ecology at Wageningen University, in the Netherlands. My research focuses on how farm management and agroecosystem patterns co-evolve from multiple socio-ecological interactions and feedbacks. By working collaboratively with farmers and local stakeholders, the objective of my work is to facilitate the co-development of more contextualised development options for improved natural resource management. The transdisciplinary nature of this approach means that I adopt a diverse range of methodologies from both social and biophysical science backgrounds at different scales of analysis. 

Lisa Eash – PhD Student (Agroecosystem Management) 

I am interested in applying ecological principles to increase efficiency and productivity of agricultural systems. My current research investigates the impact of cover crops on soil health and cash crop productivity in dryland agroecosystems on the Colorado Plateau. Previously, I have researched smallholder maize and bean systems in Central America, working to identify limitations to production that could be addressed by local development efforts. I am passionate about using a participatory approach to my research to ensure that findings can be directly applied to improve issues facing local farmers. 

Siwook Hwang – PhD student (Ecology) 

I am a PhD student in the Graduate Degree Program of Ecology. I am interested in crop genotype X rhizosphere interactions as a potential tool to manage agroecosystem soil health. After graduating from Kalamazoo College with a bachelor’s degree, I came to CSU to work at the Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory as a technician. My current project focuses on the rhizosphere characteristics of the perennial grain crops that are being developed at the Land Institute in Salina, KS. 

Joyce Mutai – PhD student (Agroecosystem Management) 

I am interested in expanding and deepening my academic knowledge and skills in areas of soil science, particularly soil-borne pathogens and parasitic nematodes. I have a BSc. Degree in Agriculture from Kenyatta University, and an MSc degree in Research Methods from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology, Kenya. My interest in soil and soil-borne pathogens developed while working for a National Research Organization in Kenya as a Research Scientist, which involved working closely with smallholder farmers in western Kenya.  I am especially interested in understanding interactions between soil type, management practices, and cropping systems, and the abundance of soil-borne pathogens and parasitic nematodes in these systems. 

Michelle Gooding – MSc Student (Agroecosystem Management) 

I am a sixth generation of hop grower from Wilder, Idaho where my family owns and operates a 600+ acre hop farm. I completed my BS in Health Sciences at Boise State University in 2013. I also played Division I golf during my undergraduate degree and enjoy all activities in the outdoors (skiing, biking, running, hiking, camping). My research examines the effects of cover crops and manure additions on soil organic matter, biological activity, and nutrient availability. 

Carolita Landers – Research Associate 

I graduated from CSU in 2018 with a BSc in Soil & Crop Sciences and a BSc in Animal Sciences. My research interests include observing and testing different effects of land uses and how they contribute to global changes. In the future I’d like to incorporate more of an interdisciplinary approach to my research to factor in social dynamics and how policy and social practices, biases, and disparities affect sustainable development within agricultural systems. I’m passionate about conserving outdoor spaces, improving systems to mitigate and adapt to climate change, promoting biodiversity, and building more resilient food systems.  

— Past Lab Members and Visiting Researchers —

Bo (Robert) Collins – Undergraduate researcher and intern (Soil and Crop Sciences) 

Current Position: Natural Resource Conservation Service, Cortez, CO.

Brynelly Bastidas

Brynelly Bastidas – visiting Ph.D. student (2022), Universidad Católica, Chile

Project Title: Soil biodiversity and soil food webs in Mediterranean agroecosystems of Central Chile.

Nora Flynn – Ph.D. 2022 (Agroecosystem Management) 

Ph.D. Dissertation Title: The impacts of deficit irrigation on crop production and sustainable soil management.

Current Position: Agriculture Water Planning Specialist, Colorado Water Conservation Board

Kelly Courtland

Courtland Kelly – PhD 2021 (Ecology) 

PhD Dissertation title: Exploring the role of planned and unplanned biodiversity in the soil health of agroecosystems 

Current position: postdoctoral researcher, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 

Blessing Magonziwa – PhD 2021 (Agroecosystem Management) 

PhD Dissertation title: Understanding the dynamics and management of organic nutrient sources in smallholder farming systems: An interdisciplinary approach 

Peter Olayemi – PhD 2021 (Agroecosystem Management) – Co-advised with Matt Wallenstein 

PhD Dissertation title: Feeding the soil to feed the planet: Soil health outcomes from novel amendments to residue management 

Current position: Data Scientist, Bayer 

Katherin Meza Retamozo – MSc student (Agroecosystem Management) 

Thesis title: Identifying Grass-Legume Bicultures to Increase Above and Belowground Biomass Production and Improve Traditional Fallows in Crop Rotations of the Andean Highlands 

Current position: Research Scientist, Grupo Yanapai, Peru and PhD student at CSU 

Dr. Paulina Ramírez Cisterna – Postdoctoral Researcher (2020-2021) + Visiting PhD student (2017), Universidad Católica, Chile 

Postdoc Project title: Field specific yield response to soil heterogeneity leads to substantial wheat yield variability in the Central High Plains 

PhD Project title: Spectral responses to labile organic carbon fractions as useful soil quality indicators across a climatic gradient 

Current position: Postdoctoral Researcher, Oregon State University

Kaytee Ankrom – PhD 2021 (Biology) – Co-advised with Diana Wall 

PhD Dissertation title: Soil Nematode Community Response to Climate Change and Associated Alterations to Precipitation and Vegetation 

Current position: Biologist, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency 

Priscila Matos – Visiting PhD student (2018-2019), Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 

Project title: Linkages among soil properties and litter quality in agroforestry systems of southeastern Brazil 

Katie Rocci  – MSc 2019 (Ecology), Co-advised with Francesca Cotrufo 

Thesis title: Soil nitrogen cycling in agroecosystems as modified by biochar amendment and plant processes 

Current position: PhD student (Ecology), Colorado State University (Cotrufo Lab) 

Dr. Jinhua Liu – Visiting Scholar (2018-2019), Jilin Agriculture University, China 

PhD Project title: Compost inputs, cropping system, and rotation phase drive aggregate‐associated carbon 

Victor Galindo – Visiting PhD student (2018), Universidad del Valle, Colombia 

PhD Project title: Land use conversion to agriculture impacts biodiversity, erosion control, and key soil properties in an Andean watershed 

Anna Maria Visscher – MSc (2018), Wageningen University, Netherlands 

Thesis title: Woody field margins influence the provision of ecosystem services and biodiversity within cropping fields of the Peruvian Andes 

Current position: PhD student, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy 

John Berlejung – MSc 2017 (Soil Science) 

Thesis title: Amendment effects on soil physical properties and restoration of decommissioned forest roads 

Current Position: R&D Production Supervisor, New West Genetics, Fort Collins, CO 

Junaidi  – MSc 2017 (Agroecosystem Management) 

Thesis title: Evaluation of spring wheat genotypes in response to soil health promoting management practices. 

Current Position: PhD Student, Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia 

Daniel Melman – International Intern (2016-2017), University of São Paulo, Brazil 

Project title: Tillage and residue management effects on soil quality and function in an irrigated cropping system of Eastern Colorado 

Anne de Valenca – MSc (2016), Wageningen University, Netherlands 

Thesis Title: Land use impact on soil biological fertility in the highlands of the Peruvian Andes 

photo of edwin

Edwin Garcia – Visiting Scholar (2016), CIAT, Honduras 

Project Title: Participatory evaluation of improved pastures and forage legumes for smallholder livestock production in Central America. 

Current Position: Researcher, Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza. 

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