Dr. Steven Fonte
I am an associate professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at 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.
Dr. Steven Vanek
Research Scientist II
Steven Vanek conducts research and NGO training activities from the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. His research focuses broadly on soil fertility in smallholder systems, including the use of improved fallows, phosphorus inputs, and biochar to sustain soil productivity in these systems. He is currently focused on accessible soil health testing, and has also taught about food systems and conducted larger-scale analyses such as comparison of soil ecosystem services in land uses and linkages between aboveground and below-ground biodiversity. He has worked extensively in the Andes and also has experience in eastern and southern Africa.
Ph.D. Student – Ecology
I am a Ph.D. 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.
Ph.D. 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 B.S.c. Degree in Agriculture from Kenyatta University, and an M.S.c 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.
Ph.D. Student – Ecology
My research focuses on understanding how the integration of multipurpose forage-based fallows can restore soil health and support multiple ecosystem services in the Peruvian Andes. This work recognizes the important role that farmers and local knowledge play in preserving agricultural landscapes and maintaining long-term soil fertility. My work seeks to understand the social and economic drivers that determine the management of multipurpose fallows as well as their implications for soil biological processes and nutrient budgets across a range of environmental and social contexts.
I graduated from CSU in 2018 with a B.Sc. in Soil & Crop Sciences and a B.Sc. 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.
M.Sc. Student – Agroecosystem Management
I am a master’s student in the Soil & Crop Science department focusing my research on soil health. Currently I am researching the effects of cover cropping and compost additions on soil health in water-limited regions, specifically Colorado and New Mexico. I am especially interested in interdisciplinary and resilience-oriented approaches to agroecological research including participatory research, educational outreach, and cooperative organizing. I came to CSU having graduated from Bard College with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, as well as an educational background in performance and visual arts.
Anna Maria Visscher
Visiting Ph.D. Student, 2022, Frei University, Bolzano, Italy
I am currently a Ph.D. student in the area of agroecology, currently studying traditional farming systems responses to global change in agricultural landscapes of the Andes. In the last six years my research has focused on tropical (smallholder) agriculture concerning different types of land-use systems. Specific focus has been on soil quality, soil analyses, biodiversity, forest ecology, traditional agriculture, plant-soil interactions, and agroforestry. I often work using participatory approaches and highly value contact with local workers and farmers.
Dr. Mark Caulfield
Affiliate Researcher and Consultant at International Livestock Research Institute
I recently completed a Ph.D. 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.
Past Lab Members and Visiting Researchers
Pascal Ellisalt Escobar
Visiting Ph.D. Student, 2022, Universidad Católica, Chile
Project Title: Soil biodiversity and soil food webs in Mediterranean agroecosystems of Central Chile.
Bo (Robert) Collins
Undergraduate Researcher and Intern – Soil and Crop Sciences)
Current Position: Researcher – Soil Health Institute
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
Ph.D. 2021 – Ecology
Ph.D. Dissertation title: Exploring the role of planned and unplanned biodiversity in the soil health of agroecosystems
Current position: postdoctoral researcher, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Ph.D. 2021 – Agroecosystem Management
Ph.D. Dissertation title: Understanding the dynamics and management of organic nutrient sources in smallholder farming systems: An interdisciplinary approach
Current position: Lecturer and Research Scientist, University of Zimbabwe
Ph.D. 2021 – Agroecosystem Management – Co-advised with Matt Wallenstein
Ph.D. 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
M.Sc. 2021 – 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
2017, 2020-2021 Visiting Ph.D. student; Postdoctoral Researcher, Universidad Católica, Chile
Postdoc Project title: Field specific yield response to soil heterogeneity leads to substantial wheat yield variability in the Central High Plains
Ph.D. 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
Ph.D. 2021 – Biology – Co-advised with Diana Wall
Ph.D. Dissertation title: Soil Nematode Community Response to Climate Change and Associated Alterations to Precipitation and Vegetation
Current position: Biologist, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
Visiting Ph.D. 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
M.Sc. 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
Ph.D. Project title: Compost inputs, cropping system, and rotation phase drive aggregate‐associated carbon
Visiting Ph.D. Student 2018, Universidad del Valle, Colombia
Ph.D. Project title: Land use conversion to agriculture impacts biodiversity, erosion control, and key soil properties in an Andean watershed
Anna Maria Visscher
M.Sc. 2018, – (Water Resources Management, 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
M.Sc. 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
M.Sc. 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
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
M.Sc. 2016, Organic Agriculture, Wageningen University, Netherlands
Thesis Title: Land use impact on soil biological fertility in the highlands of the Peruvian Andes
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.