Designing agricultural landscapes to provide more than crops

Agriculture is the defining feature of many rural North American landscapes. Over time, a focus on productivity and large-scale cultivation of commodity crops has resulted in agricultural landscapes dominated by large, homogenous fields, such as the corn and soy that blanket the Midwest. But agricultural landscapes provide more than just the crops grown on them. They also offer animal and plant habitat, clean our water and air, and capture carbon in the soil—a host of services often termed ecosystem services. Many key co-benefits are thanks to insects and other arthropods: they pollinate

Novel windows through time open fresh views of long-term research

Just over 40 years ago, the National Science Foundation (NSF) posited a visionary idea: the establishment of a national network of Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites. Today, these 28 sites carry an unprecedented database of decades-long ecological observations and experiments. Michigan State University’s LTER site, located at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) near Battle Creek, Mich., was founded in 1988 to employ and understand the ecology of Midwest cropping systems and agricultural landscapes. Researchers study interactions among plants, microbes,

Science on the Hill: connecting research to policy through virtual Congressional meetings

Corinn Rutkoski and Ekrem Ozlu share their experiences from a recent Congressional Visit Day where they advocated for several USDA research programs. Corinn is a graduate student in Sarah Evans's lab and studies microbial ecology and the use of perennials in agricultural systems. Ekrem is a postdoctoral researcher in Phil Robertson's lab and studies soil management and carbon sequestration. The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) recently hosted their annual Congressional Visits Day, giving a group of KBS scientists and students an opportunity to connect with elected officials and

Bridging the gap between our community and science with Film

Michaela Rose works as a Laboratory Technician in the Haddad lab at MSU's Kellogg Biological Station, and studied Zoology and Film Studies at North Carolina State University. She recently produced a series of films capturing the ecology and research of the KBS LTER. All of Michaela's videos can be viewed on the Kellogg Biological Station YouTube page! Although there are many media forms where we consume information on the daily, film remains one of the most influential. Short snippets or stories on social media platforms such as Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram are viewed by

Data Nuggets researchers lead collaborative study examining representation in STEM curriculum

When you were a child, what was your image of a scientist? Could you imagine yourself in those shoes? A new, National Science Foundation-funded study led by Michigan State University researchers and others aims to better understand how science instruction that contains diverse scientist role models affects student attitudes about science, technology, engineering and mathematics—STEM—courses and careers.  Data Nuggets, a project that has created free STEM classroom activities since 2011, is integral to the new study. Data Nuggets was founded by postdoctoral

Between friends and foes – when is it best for plants to avoid vs. interact with soil symbionts? Reflections from an LTER fellow

Isabela Lima Borges is a PhD student in the Department of Integrative Biology at Michigan State University and a member of Sarah Fitzpatrick's lab. All organisms on Earth require others to live, and few, if any, have gone untouched by anthropogenic change in the past century. As an ecologist, I am fascinated by how plants interact with other species, and how those interactions are affected by human interventions. Given plants’ fundamental role as the basis of terrestrial food webs, these interactions are critical for most of the biological processes that humans rely upon.

On-farm conservation practices to build resilience: Notes from a virtual field day

Monica Jean, Educator with Michigan State University Extension (MSUE), shares details from the recent Cropping System Resilience Virtual Field Day, held July 2020. For the original article, see the MSUE website. MSUE teamed up with The Kellogg Biological Station Long-term Ecological Research (KBS LTER) program and farmers in the Central Southern region of Michigan to host a live Cropping System Resilience Virtual Field Day in July. The day included a farm tour and interactive questions from the audience. During the tour, topics discussed were relay cropping, interseeding covers, and

A new perspective – using bioenergy crops to alleviate global warming: Reflections from an LTER fellow

Jinho Lee is a PhD student in the Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences Department at Michigan State University. He works in the Kravchenko lab with interests in carbon dynamics of soil. Today we are facing one of the biggest environmental challenges that our species has never faced, and one that is caused by our own actions. Since the Industrial Revolution, the worldwide carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have increased due to use of C-based fossil fuels. This has resulted in global warming.  To alleviate global warming and reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, several alternative

The metamorphosis of the monarch butterfly and the citizen scientist

Britney Christensen and Gabe Knowles joined Doug Landis' Lab through the NSF LTER RET Program (National Science Foundation's Research Experience for Teachers). This program matches K-12 teachers with local scientists for 8-10 weeks of field data collection and independent research. The goal is to enhance the professional development of K-12 science educators through research experience in order to then bring new knowledge into their classroom. Learn more about the KBS K-12 Partnership and future KBS RETs (professional development program supported by the KBS LTER). The

Understanding the role of microbial diversity in soil ecosystem functioning: Reflections from a LTER Fellow

Grant Falvo is a PhD student in the Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences Department at Michigan State University. He works in the Robertson lab within the disciplines of soil microbial ecology and biogeochemistry and is interested in global change phenomena broadly. There are more microorganisms in a typical handful of soil than there are people on this planet. Every year these microbes emit >5 times as much CO2 as all the fossil fuel emissions emitted by humans. Yet recent research is beginning to uncover the dominant role these microbes play in stabilizing a similarly large