Rebecca McCulley

Rebecca McCulleyOur lab is interested in the structure and function of grass and shrub-dominated ecosystems. We explore how human land use interacts with climate, soils, and biota in these ecosystems to impact the storage and cycling of nutrients at both local and regional spatial scales.

  Examples of research questions our lab addresses:

1).  How do grasslands respond to climate and land use change?

2).  What are the ecosytem consequences of fungal endophyte infection in tall fescue?

3).  What controls litter decomposition in aridlands?

4).  How do invasive species affect grassland structure and function?

Wei Ren

Wei RenDr. Ren is broadly interested in understanding, assessing, and predicting interactions and feedbacks between natural and anthropogenic processes in Earth’s Ecosystems and Climate System by using an integrated systems approach with a combination of numerical models, remote sensing/GIS, and field observations/ measurements. She works at multiple spatiotemporal scales, ranging from field level to watershed, regional, and global levels, and over daily, seasonal, annual, decadal, and century scales. Her research foci are to 1) investigate the impacts of coupled natural and anthropogenic factors (climate, CO2, air pollution, land cover change, and diverse land management practices); 2) assess biogeochemical dynamics of terrestrial ecosystems (cropland, grassland, forest) as influenced by global changes at broad scales (e.g. Mississippi River Basin, southeastern US, North America, China, India, Monsoon Asia, and the Globe); 3) develop and improve land ecosystem models, by incorporating improved representations of physical, chemical, and biological processes, to enhance the capability in simulating human activities as an interdependent component of the earth system;4) use, analyze, and synthesize big data derived from site-level observations/experiments and remote sensing platforms for addressing broad-scaled ecological research questions.

Jason Unrine

Jason UnrineMy research group investigates the environmental fate, transport and ecotoxicology of trace-elements and engineered nanomaterials. Much of our research focuses on the transformations and impacts of trace-elements and nanomaterials in terrestrial and wetland environments. We have developed tools that utilize advanced analytical, imaging and spectroscopic techniques to investigate the environmental transformations, bioavailability, bioaccumulation, trophic transfer and maternal transfer of these contaminants. We relate this information to adverse organismal effects with population level relevance. Working closely with Dr. Olga Tsyusko, we also use ecotoxicogenomics tools to help elucidate the biochemical mechanisms of contaminant bioaccumulation and adverse effects. Our work with nanomaterials focuses on how the properties of nanomaterials relate to their bioavailability and adverse effects and how these properties change in the environment. We also work in the area of environmental health focusing on human exposure to trace-elements in support of epidemiology studies being conducted by the Markey Cancer Center and collaborate with scientists and engineers working to develop cost effective contaminant source reduction and waste handling techniques for mining. We frequently collaborate with outside researchers and have helped address a wide array of problems in trace-element biology, geology and chemistry.

Research Opportunities in the PSS Department

Many of our faculty offer opportunities for undergraduate and graduate student research. Funding for these projects varies. To see current openings, please visit the posting board HERE.