A Peek at Life Under a Wheat Field: Reflections from an LTER Fellow

MSU graduate researcher, Allison Zahorec, is a PhD student in Dr. Doug Landis’s lab in the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University. Allison Zahorec holding a core of soil taken out of a wheat field at the LTER. Photo by Kurt Stepnitz. When one envisions a typical midwestern farm, ‘biodiversity’ is hardly the first thing that comes to mind. Compared to more natural landscapes, agricultural lands can seem like ecological dead zones. Yet even the most intensively managed corn monocultures are teeming with life belowground. A few teaspoons of soil can contain over a billion

SLAM: Scientists Love Acronyms, Man

KBS 2018 undergraduate summer researcher Emily Lindback is a junior at Franklin and Marshall College. She wrote about her Research Experiences for Undergraduates project working with mentor and LTER researcher Dr. Michael Abraha in the Robertson Lab. Lindback was funded by an NSF REU site award to the Kellogg Biological Station.     Driving into Hickory Corners, I first noticed the dense green vegetation, many marshes, huge agricultural plots, and yes, cows. Hickory Corners seemed like a biologist’s dream, the perfect spot for a biological station. I

Seeking a more resilient agriculture: the next chapter for the KBS LTER program

Imagine for a moment a Midwestern agricultural landscape in late August that has not seen rain in weeks. Some corn fields remain green, showing no sign of a moisture deficit while other fields have curled leaves, plants starting to yellow. Belowground, microbial communities between the fields are acting differently, too, some biding their time until a pulse of rain puts them in motion while others continue their work. Under the same climate and soils, why is one field more resilient to the stress of drought? What about that field helps it to remain productive? In the midst of global

Crops, climate, computers – An eye on complex cropping systems: Reflections from an LTER researcher

Each year the KBS LTER awards full and summer fellowships to MSU graduate students. MSU graduate researcher Prakash Jha is a PhD student in Dr. Amor Ines' lab in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences. He wrote about his 2017 KBS LTER summer fellowship project. The assessment of agricultural sustainability is complex. On the one hand, the increasing production trends are perceived to be critical to meet the increasing demand of food for the growing population. On the other hand, the excessive use of agricultural inputs to increase food production poses

The little known gas with a big impact

By KBS LTER volunteer Bill Krasean. Dr. Ying Zhang was a visiting researcher in 2017 in Dr. Phil Robertson's lab at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station in southwest Michigan. ~~~~ Ozone, the simple combination of three oxygen atoms, is both a naturally occurring and human-created gas in the Earth’s atmosphere. Atmospheric ozone is created naturally from gaseous substances emitted by lightning, soil, and vegetation, but it is also formed from pollutants emitted by human activities. Ozone is a mixed bag whose downside is a growing concern worldwide because of its negative i

My KBS summer research experience: Reflections from an undergraduate researcher

KBS undergraduate summer researcher Francisca Donkor is a sophomore at Harris-Stowe State University. She wrote about her Research Experiences for Undergraduates project working with mentor and LTER researcher Heather Kittredge, a PhD student in Sarah Evans' lab at MSU. Francisca was funded by an NSF REU site award to the Kellogg Biological Station. Coming from Harris-Stowe State University, which is comparatively small in size, I knew I had a lot of adjusting and learning to do from day one of my Research Experiences for Undergraduates project at the Kellogg

A summer I will never forget: Reflections from an undergraduate researcher

KBS undergraduate summer researcher Christopher Williamson is a senior at Clemson University. He wrote about his Research Experiences for Undergraduates project working with mentor and LTER researcher Dr. Jen Lau in her lab at KBS. Williamson was funded by an NSF REU site award to the Kellogg Biological Station. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Well, what should I say? It wouldn’t be enough to say that this has been a great summer, that I have made lifelong friendships and have had a delightful research experience in which to add to my resume. Now while this may all be true, it’s la

Nitrogen management through a social science lens: Reflections from an LTER researcher

By Adam Reimer, PhD, Post Doc and LTER researcher.  W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University For decades, researchers at the Kellogg Biological Station – Long Term Ecological Research site have explored the impacts of nitrogen management in agricultural landscapes on our air, water, and climate. While KBS LTER scientists have learned a great deal from this long-term, site-based research, we need to extend results of this work to a wider audience, and beyond the borders of KBS. As part of this effort, a group of investigators from MSU have been working on the S

Hoes to Herbicides: Reflecting on the last century of weed control and preparing for the next

By Braeden Van Deynze, a PhD student working with Dr. Scott Swinton in the Department of Ag Food & Resource Economics at Michigan State University. Dr. Swinton is also one of the lead scientists with the Kellogg Biological Station Long-term Ecological Research (KBS LTER) program. Here Braeden explains their work taking a long-term view of weed management in the United States, in press in the European Journal of Development Research. ~~~~~~~ Since the dawn of agriculture, farmers have done battle with weeds. These unwanted pests grow in competition with crops, siphoning off nutrients,

How farmers use and manage nitrogen: Reflections from an LTER fellow

Each year the KBS LTER program awards two graduate students with summer research fellowships. Here Riva Denny describes the research her 2016 summer fellowship supported. Riva is a PhD student working with Dr. Sandra Marquart-Pyatt in the Department of Sociology, Michigan State University. ~~ As a sociology student who studies agriculture and the environment my research looks a little different from most of the research done at the Kellogg Biological Station Long-term Ecological Research (KBS LTER) site. I study the social aspects of nitrogen fertilizer use in US agriculture and the practic