My PhD project consists of the study of interactions between soil structure and soil microbiota, and the effects of soil structure on the biogeochemical cycles. The goal of this project is to solve a paradox in microbial ecology and soil carbon storage: The fact that the very high number of soil microbes do not degrade the large amounts of soil organic matter, while few microbes in aquatic systems very quickly and completely cycle carbon compounds. We hypothesize that physical protection in soil aggregates allows organic matter to “hide” from its decomposers.
I am investigating whether a soil’s micro-scale habitat structure determines speed and baseline of soil microbial nutrient cycling. The project employs two complementing and interdisciplinary approaches: in-vitro studies in custom-made growth environments built with lab-on-a-chip techniques, and in-situ studies on field samples.