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

Alan Bowsher is a plant evolutionary ecologist, with a particular interest in root biology and adaptation to fertility gradients. He will be working on root transcriptome and microbiome analyses for the project.
Jeff Norman
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.

Research Staff

Cody Bekkering is a research technician in the Friesen Lab.
Shannon Carvey is a research technician in the Evans Lab.
Kevin Dougherty manages the Evans Lab.
Steve Gougherty is a research technician and MMPRNT project coordinator.
Amanda Harden manages the Tiemann Lab.
Santosh Gunturu 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.


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.