Principal Investigators

From left to right are the principal investigators of the project: Dr. Sarah Evans, Dr. Lisa Tiemann, Dr. Maren Friesen and Dr. Jim Cole.
Sarah Evans is a soil microbial ecologist who aims to link microbial processes to biogeochemical cycles. With a background in N-cycling processes, she has led efforts to describe how microbial responses to environmental stress can influence ecosystem function, and used novel approaches that couple biogeochemical assays, field manipulations, and microbial metagenomics to identify functionally-relevant traits of microbial communities.
Lisa Tiemann is a soil biologist and biogeochemist who works at the interface of basic research and applied systems. She has extensive training and background in the use of stable isotopes in ecological studies and all biogeochemical assays that are used in this project. Her research focus on N-cycling processes and microbial contributions to soil organic matter formation and accrual are particularly relevant to this project.
Maren Friesen is an evolutionary ecologist with expertise in N-fixing plant-microbe symbioses, plant and bacterial genomics, transcriptomics, and evolutionary and ecological modeling. Her research uses integrated systems approaches to understand how the structure and function of plant-associated microbial communities influence plant functional traits.
Jim Cole is a molecular microbial ecologist and responsible for the Ribosomal Database Project (RDP) at Michigan State University. RDP aids in discovery and characterization of microbes in systems ranging from soil to the human microbiome, based on data, tools and analysis services provided through RDP to the research community.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Lukas Bell-Dereske is a postdoctoral associate in the Evans lab. He is fascinated by the factors that drive plant and microbial community composition within the context of climate change. Lukas is currently exploring the microbial community of leaves of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and how rain drives leaf community assembly.

Yang Ouyang is a soil microbial ecologist. His research focuses on soil microbial C and N cycling, agroecosystem sustainability, soil microbes and water. His work on this project includes primer design for nifH and use of isotope stable probing to explore soil microbial community in switchgrass rhizosphere.

Graduate Students

Tayler Chicoine is interested in using switchgrass as a model system to investigate how different plant ecotypes may select for and harbor distinct microbial communities that, in turn, influence their tolerance to drought.
Colleen Friel is a PhD student in Plant Biology and is interested in how plant-microbe interactions can be utilized to increase agricultural sustainability.
Darian Smercina is a PhD student in MSU's Crop and Soil Sciences Program interested in N-fixation and N-mineralization.

Undergraduate Researchers and Technicians

Christin Landis is an undergraduate technician in the Friesen Lab.
Zhenyao Ye is an undergraduate technician in the Friesen Lab.
Jordan Priebe is an undergraduate technician in the Friesen lab.
Zahraa Al-Tameemi is an undergraduate research apprentice in the Evans Lab.

Research Staff

Santosh Gunturu works with the Cole group.
Unser Hashsham works with the Cole group.
Corinn Rutkoski is a research technician in the Evans Lab.
Yahn-Jauh Su is a research technician in the Evans Lab.
Holly Vander Stel is a research technician and MMPRNT project coordinator.
Charity Mackie is a research technician in the Tiemann Lab.
Chase Kasmerchak is a research technician in the Tiemann Lab.
Rémy Van Geersdaële is a research technician in the Evans Lab.


Cody Bekkering: Technician in Friesen Lab.
Alan Bowsher: Post-doc in Friesen Lab.
Steve Gougherty: Technician in Evans Lab and Project Coordinator for MMPRNT.
Jeff Norman: Post-doc in Friesen Lab.
Shannon Carvey: Technician in Evans Lab.
Kevin Dougherty: Managed the Evans Lab.
Amanda Harden: Managed the Tiemann Lab.
Daniela Herrera: Summer 2017 research technician.
Will West: Post-doc in Evans Lab.
Jon Hileman: 2017 LTER-REU in Friesen Lab.
Harry Ervin: 2017 REU in Evans Lab.
Khalilah Smith: 2017 URA in Evans Lab.
Francisca Donkor: 2017 REU in Evans Lab.
Natalie VanDyke: Autumn 2016 research technician.
Kathryn Bloodworth: Summer 2016 REU student.
Kelechi Ukachukwu: Summer 2016 URA.

The MMPRNT project has been made possible though a grant from the United States Department of Energy.