Soil Fungal Biomass: Its Degradation and Contribution to Soil Organic Matter
Fungi are ubiquitous in soils. However, it remains virtually unknown how dead fungal mass (fungal necromass) is degraded, and what portion of it contributes to the slow turnover of soil organic matter pools. We are interested in determining the rate of fungal necromass breakdown under a variety of scenarios (field experiments, lab experiments, breakdown by microbes, breakdown by macrofauna, etc). Additionally, we are interested in how the chemical nature of the fungal necromass changes as it degrades, and the chemistry of the organic carbon it leaves behind after initial degradation. The student will learn how to cultivate fungi, set up degradation experiments, and use organic geochemical analysis instruments such as a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, a Fourier Transform infrared spectrometer, and elemental analyzer.