Francesca Cotrufo is a professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Colorado State University. She earned a B.Sc. from the University of Naples, Italy and her Ph.D. from Lancaster University, UK. Prior to join CSU in 2008, she worked as a professor at University of Campania, Italy.
Dr. Cotrufo is a soil ecologist and biogeochemist, internationally recognized for her work in the field of litter decomposition and soil organic matter dynamics, and in the use of isotopic methodologies in these studies. She strives to advance understanding of the mechanisms and drivers of formation and persistence of soil organic matter, and their response to global environmental changes and disturbances. She uses this understanding to improve modelling of soil C-climate feedbacks to inform climate and land use policy and management. She also pursues applied research to innovate and increase throughput of soil carbon and health testing, and to propose soil management practices that regenerate healthy soils and mitigate climate change. As a scientist fully aware of the current and future challenges expecting humanity, Dr. Cotrufo is interested in promoting research education, and outreach activities to help mitigating the current human impacts on the Earth System and assure a better sustainable path for humanity. To this end, with other colleagues at CSU, she recently formed the Soil Carbon Solution Center.
Dr. Cotrufo is editor of the journal Global Change Biology. To date she published over 150 peer-reviewed articles , several book chapters and her book “A Primer on Stable Isotopes in Ecology” is in press by Oxford University Press. She has been the recipient of the SSSA Soil Science Research Award, the CSU Provost 14’er Award for Faculty Excellence, and the ASA-CSSA-SSSA Mentoring Award. She was recognized as Nutrien Distinguished Scholar of Agricultural Sciences, SSSA Francis E. Clark Distinguished Lecturer, CSU Distinguished Resident Ecologist, MSU Eminent Ecologist, UN Leu Distinguished Lecturer, August T Larsson Researcher within the 2% of the world scientists for publication impact (PLSO, 2020), Soil Expert by Expertscape’s PubMed, and Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher (2018, 2022).
Francesca strives to balance work and life, to spend enriching and fun time with her family and friends all over the world. She loves sailing and skiing, but also her simple daily walk.
Megan Machmuller, PhD
Dr. Machmuller is a research scientist in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Colorado State University. Megan has a passion for understanding the fascinating complexity of our natural world and identifying the fundamental ecological and biogeochemical processes that underpin resilient and sustainable ecosystems. Her research, which extends from the arctic tundra to subtropical grasslands, aims to address how climate change and management practices influence plant-microbial interactions, soil health, and carbon sequestration. She serves on the executive leadership committee for the Soil Carbon Solutions Center, is the co-director of the Integrated Rocky Mountain-region Innovation Center for Healthy Soils and is a scientific lead for the Colorado Soil Health program – Saving Tomorrow’s Agricultural Resources, which aim to advance soil health research and encourage the widespread adoption of soil health practices across the region by holding critical conversations and supporting collaboration with producers, policymakers, and the public. Megan received her BS in Biology from Creighton University and PhD in Ecology from the Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia and served as a USDA NIFA postdoctoral fellow prior to her current position at CSU.
Our Soil Management Team
Michelle Haddix, MSc
Michelle got her bachelor’s degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Environmental Studies and her master’s degree in Ecology at Colorado State University. She has worked in soil labs for over 20 years and developed multiple soil fractionation protocols and has focused her work on understanding the mechanisms and monitoring soil organic matter stabilization and destabilization. She is the Senior Manager of the Soil Innovation Laboratory. And in her free time, she enjoys gardening, baking, and spending time with her two boys.
Rebecca Even, MSc
Rebecca received her BSc in Ecosystem Science and Sustainability and MSc in Soil and Crop Sciences at Colorado State University. She became smitten with soil organic matter as an undergraduate researcher where she learned more about soil’s role in the global carbon cycle and how through improved soil management, we can mitigate effects of climate change. She is the Associate Lab Manager of the SoIL and leads or assists with research projects and trainings. When not at work, she loves alpine lake swims and dog snuggles.
Research Scientists and Post Doctorates
Alison King, PhD
Prior to joining the Cotrufo Lab as a USDA NIFA Postdoctoral Fellow, Alison completed her PhD in Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph. Alison was first drawn to science by a love of the interplay between ideas and evidence. She is motivated by the belief that this interplay can lead to better decisions and outcomes, which her research seeks to clarify for agricultural lands in a rapidly changing world. She currently works as member of the MEMS model development team. Outside of the lab, Alison enjoys hikes, books, sewing projects, playing the viola, and practicing Ashtanga yoga.
Paige Stanley, PhD
Paige is an interdisciplinary scientist working to understand how grazing management can sequester and stabilize carbon (C) in soils to help mitigate climate change and build more resilient rangeland ecosystems. With a B.S. in Biology and Economics (Georgia College & State University), M.S. in Animal Science (Michigan State University), and PhD in Environmental Science (University of California, Berkeley), she draws on a wide range of disciplines including soil biogeochemistry, grazing and rangeland ecology, agroecology, rancher sociology, and political ecology to approach research questions holistically. In her free time, Paige loves hiking/backpacking, cycling, cooking for her friends, and seeing her favorite bands live.
Lexi Firth, PhD
Lexi’s research interests are centered around the interplay between food production, human-environmental relationships, and soil health. She received her BS in ecology from Humboldt State University, which inspired her to explore the natural word as a traveling biological. Following several years working on an organic farm in New Mexico, Lexi completed her MSc and Ph.D. from Mississippi State University in natural resource management. Her work primarily revolves around improving soil health through responsible land stewardship, with a special focus on soil microbiology, carbon, and outreach education.
Sam Leuthold is PhD student who focuses on linkages between soil organic matter biogeochemistry and agricultural outcomes. Before joining the SoIL at CSU, he received his MS at the University of Kentucky, where his research revolved around sustainable management of cover crops, and his BS at Montana State University, where he worked on questions related to watershed hydrology and biogeochemistry. His passion for soils and agricultural systems arose from a fascination with the multi-scale processes that drive soil function, combined with a desire to contribute to a more sustainable food system. Outside of the lab, he likes riding his bike, reading mediocre thriller novels, and spending time on the river.
Aaron is currently pursuing a PhD researching soil organic matter dynamics in the context of regenerative agriculture with a focus on the role of soil fauna. He is particularly interested in identifying and supporting agricultural systems that encourage healthy and diverse soil ecosystems. Soil health is the nexus through which we can most effectively address climate change, food security, water quality, and agricultural resilience. With the support of FFAR and General Mills, Aaron’s research addresses the complex and pressing challenges facing soil health. Aaron is an avid backpacker and loves to climb, ski, and garden. He also enjoys raising insects and arachnids and helping people learn to be less afraid of these fascinating critters.
Paige received her BS and MA in Ecology and Evolution, as well as a minor in English literature, from the University of Kansas. She became excited about soil organic matter while doing undergraduate and Masters research on soil fungi and bacteria, where she learned about the role microbes play in both carbon breakdown and storage. Her dissertation focuses on quantifying controls on soil carbon formation and persistence, especially those that are specific to soil microbiomes. Outside of work, she loves repurposing and making her own clothes, her houseplants, and the color pink.
Erica earned a BSc in Fish Wildlife and Conservation Biology and an MSc in Conservation Leadership from Colorado State University. Currently she is pursuing a PhD in Rangeland Ecology and Soil Biogeochemistry with a focus on how livestock management impacts soil carbon sequestration in grassland ecosystems. She is motivated in this work by the many implications of improving rangeland management, from bolstering soil and ecosystem health, to ensuring food security, and ultimately to mitigating the effects of climate change. Outside of academia, Erica loves backpacking, skiing, trail running and, on the rainy days, baking.
Laura earned her BS in Soil and Crop Sciences from Colorado State University. Her passion for agriculture and climate change mitigation motivated her to pursue undergraduate research, where she became enamored with how soil microbes influence organic matter formation and biogeochemical cycling. Currently, she is a PhD student, primarly under Dr. Kelly Wrighton, and NSF GRFP fellow whose research seeks to identify the microbial metabolic mechanisms contributing to organic matter storage in regenerative grazing systems. Outside of school, she loves all things outdoors and can be found gardening, snowboarding, or adventuring with her dog in the mountains.
Research Associates and Lab Technicians
Tayin Wang, BA
Tayin received his BA in Chemistry and Environmental Studies from Kalamazoo College. Through his undergraduate summer research at Colorado State University, he learned about plant’s amazing ability to communicate with soil microbes via root exudation. This experience spearheaded his research interest in the role of plant-soil-microbe interactions on nutrient cycling regulation and soil organic matter formation. Driven by the sustainable cause of nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation, he now leads a team of students in various research projects, coordinating fieldwork logistics, laboratory analyses, and data wrangling. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his partner and dog, playing board games, and cooking with friends!
Emily Riley, BSc
Emily received her BSc in Agricultural Science at Universidad de la Republica, Facultad de Agronomia, Uruguay. Her interest in agriculture comes from being born and raised in a country where the principal industry is agriculture. She wants to learn more about soil carbon dynamics under regenerative management. She is now working as a Research Associate, learning from all the projects. In her free time, she goes hiking.