Lab Group

Dr. Steven Fonte – Assistant Professor

I am an assistant 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 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

See profile for Steve Vanek

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

I’m working at the USDA water management research site and studying the impacts of deficit irrigation on soil structure and related processes. Exploring ways to improve the sustainability of agriculture in a changing climate is what excites me most. I seek out opportunities to learn from and collaborate with farmers who guide me towards relevant and practical questions. My previous research has focused on reduced tillage in corn-soybean systems in Southeastern Minnesota.

Courtland Kelly – Ph.D. Student (Ecology)

I am a graduate student in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, interested in using ecological systems thinking to improve agricultural practices. I came to Colorado State after working as a nature guide in Colorado and at an urban agriculture nonprofit helping low-income families and children grow their own vegetables. My main interests are soil health and soil-plant interactions. Currently, I am working on a project examining the benefits of cover crop/forage rotations in wheat systems.

Blessing Magonziwa – Ph.D. Student (Agroecosystem Management)

Blessing has a special interest in researching technologies and methods that allow for sustainable development in smallholder agricultural communities. She holds a bachelor’s degree (Soil Science) and a master’s degree (Agronomy) from the University of Zimbabwe. She is in early stages of her research career and has since focussed on soil fertility and water management practices. Blessing has worked as a research and teaching assistant at the University of Zimbabwe and is currently a Graduate Research Assistant at Colorado State University.

Michelle Gooding – M.Sc. Student (Agroecosystem Management)

Background: Michelle originally hales from Wilder, Idaho where her family owns and operates a 600 acre hop farm. She, along with her two sisters, form the sixth generation of hop growers in the family. She completed her BS in Health Sciences at Boise State University in 2013. She also played Division I golf during her undergraduate degree and now frequents the local courses in Fort Collins. She enjoys all activities in the outdoors (skiing, biking, running, hiking, camping) and also has a rambunctious pomeranian named Dani. Her research examines soil health and fertility in hop yards.  More specifically, she studies the effects of cover crops and manure additions on soil organic matter, biological activity, and nutrient availability.

Lisa Eash – M.Sc. Student (Agroecosystem Management)

I am interested in applying agroecological principles to increase productivity and sustainability in production systems of smallholder farmers. My current research, conducted in collaboration with CIMMYT, seeks to identify limitations to production for maize and bean farmers in distinct agroecological zones throughout Central America. I am passionate about using a participatory approach to my research to ensure that findings can be used as a tool for agricultural development.

Katherin Meza Retamozo – M.Sc./Pathways Student (Agroecosystem Management)

I am pursuing a MS degree in Agroecosystem Management at CSU. What I enjoy most about working in agriculture is conducting research and working closely with farmers throughout the Andean highlands. Upon finishing my BSc in agronomy, I interned with the International Potato Center (CIP), where I worked in potato breeding to improve resistance to a common (Phytophthora infestans) pathogen, examined the survival of potato varieties across three different sites in the Peruvian Andes, and characterized morphology of 200 varieties of native potato to produce a catalog. Over the last several years, I have been working with Grupo Yanapai, focusing on how integration of different forage options can improve fodder availability and restore soil fertility during fallow periods. This work also examines the important role that farmers play in preserving their landscape and ecosystem services, and the value of local knowledge in the sustainable management of agricultural lands.

Anna Maria Visscher – M.Sc. Student, Wageningen University, Netherlands

I obtained a BSc degree in International Development Studies with a focus on communication, technology and innovation. With a passion for participatory approaches and an eye for feasibility, I hope to support and empower projects that try to re-green rural zones to benefit the livelihoods of local inhabitants.  I am especially interested in agroecology and restoration ecology. I am currently a MSc student at Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, and am enrolled in two MSc programs: 1) International Land and Water management, with specialization in irrigation and water management, and 2) Plant Science, with specialization in soil quality. My thesis research is related to functional agrobiodiversity in the Andean highlands of central Peru.  More specifically, I’m focusing on the role of field margins in regulating soil-based ecosystems services and biodiversity in smallholder production fields of the region.

Bo Collins – B.Sc. Student (Soil and Crop Sciences)

I am currently an undergraduate student in the Department of Soil & Crop Sciences pursuing a concentration in Soil Restoration & Conservation. My interests in soils and agriculture began while living and teaching English abroad in rural rice farming villages  across Thailand. Inspired by the diligent and essential work of small farmers, I eventually returned to the U.S. and began a career as a vegetable farmer in Charleston, South Carolina. A few years ago, I decided to return to school increase my scientific understanding of soil and crop management and to explore practical solutions that may help to improve and maintain the agricultural productivity and biological diversity of global soil resources. I have become increasingly interested in learning more about plant-soil microbiome interactions and effects on nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, plant growth, etc. Overall, I’m excited to further my knowledge and hopefully play a small role in finding solutions to the myriad challenges of global soil degradation & food insecurity.

Jinhua Liu – Visiting Scholar, Jilin Agriculture University, China

I am a researcher and lecturer at Jilin Agriculture University in China. I teach about analyses and experimentation in soil science and also conduct research on soil fertility and plant nutrient absorption efficiency. I like teaching, as it gives me the opportunity to interact with young people and lets me feel younger and more dynamic. I also enjoy research, because it can solve practical problems and help farmers produce more food with fewer inputs, thus protecting our environment. My recent work focuses on the effect of maize straw retention on the soil physical and chemical properties, especially the distribution of different size aggregates, and associated C, N and P distributions. I hope that my work and the knowledge I acquire during my time at CSU will ultimately help farmers with sustainable agricultural production.

— Past Lab Members and Visiting Researchers —

Victor Galindo – Visiting Ph.D. student, Universidad del Valle, Colombia

I’m a Ph.D. student in the Biology program of the Universidad del Valle in the South of Colombia. My past research has focused on restoration ecology of degraded riparian corridors in the Andes. Currently, my work seeks to understand the complex ecological processes that underpin the provision of ecosystem services in mountainous Andean landscapes. More specifically, my research focuses on the regulation of water quality and erosion control. This work is conducted in collaboration with rural communities and aims to identify best practices for conservation of above- and belowground biodiversity and associated ecosystem functions.

John Berlejung – M.Sc. 2017 (Soil Science)

After graduating with a bachelor’s in geology, I worked in the oil and gas industry to apply my education and to better-understand the environmental impacts of drilling operations. When I realized that economic conditions would soon put me out of a job, I re-evaluated my career path and decided that I want to protect and restore our natural environment from anthropogenic harm; I’m particularly interested in researching soil remediation techniques that allow disturbed sites to return to a state of high health and productivity for future generations to use and enjoy.

M.Sc. Thesis Title: Amendment effects on soil physical properties and restoration of decommissioned forest roads

Junaidi  – M.Sc. 2017 (Agroecosystem Management)

As a young scientist at the Indonesian Rubber Research Institute I have been involved in research related to yield improvement. Now, I am interested to learn about and explore new approaches for sustainable agriculture. My specific interest is to improve ecosystem services using environmentally friendly inputs and to maintain long-term productivity. In this work, I am studying interactions between soil biology, inputs and crop growth.

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

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Paulina Ramírez – Visiting Scholar (2017), Universidad Católica, Chile

m a PhD student in the Science of Engineering program at Pontificia Universidad Católica of Chile. My undergraduate degree is in Biochemistry and I obtained a Master of Engineering in mining and environment area. My main interests are focused on environmental restoration and soil health. For that reason, I decided to conduct my PhD research on soil organic carbon in agroecosystems. I’m studying the carbon dynamics from an interdisciplinary perspective; this means, understanding the micro and macro scale processes and support my research by using mathematical and geographic tools. My decision to study croplands comes from many areas in my country having been affected by soil degradation as a result of anthropogenic and climate factors. Therefore, the understanding soil organic carbon dynamics is crucial to keep soil productivity in the long-term.

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

I am an undergraduate student in the Program of Agricultural Sciences at the University of São Paulo (ESALQ) in Brazil. In my studies I focus on understanding agricultural production through an ecological perspective, and using agroecological knowledge as a tool to improve agroecosystem resilience. I am currently working on a project evaluating the impact of tillage and residue management on soil quality as well as relationships between macrofauna abundance and soil physicochemical parameters.

B.Sc. Thesis title: Tillage and residue management drive soil quality and function in an irrigated cropping system of Eastern Colorado

Anne de Valenca – Visiting Scholar (2016), Wageningen University, Netherlands

I obtained my M.Sc. Organic Agriculture from Wageningen University (The Netherlands).  I specialized in agroecology and conducted my thesis research on landscape and soil ecology. This work took place within the project ‘Suelos Andinos – Diversification of agriculture from plots to farmscapes’ in Peru, where we conducted a study to assess the impact of land use on soil biodiversity and fertility. It was very inspiring to collaborate there with the local farming community, Peruvian students and a team of international researchers, who all had the same goals to have sustainable agroecosystems.

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

I am a researcher at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in the Tropical Soils program. I’m an agronomist by training, with a M.Sc degree in Tropical Agroforestry. I study crop production and other ecosystem services within Slash and Mulch Agroforestry Systems as well as participatory adaptation of these systems to new areas across Central America. Similarly, I have worked in the co-design of silvopastoral systems for smallholder farmers in hillside landscapes of Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua with the aim of having more eco-efficient production and contributing to poverty reduction for smallholders in Central America and similar areas around the world.

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

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