My research program focuses on the ecological and evolutionary linkages between plants, soils, soil communities and ecosystem processes. I take a multi-disciplinary approach that aims to understand the complex interactions and feedbacks between above- and belowground processes in a variety of global change contexts.
Michael Van Nuland
I focus on using plant-soil linkages and feedbacks to explore how eco-evolutionary dynamics drive plant responses to global change. My work investigates the reciprocal interactions between ecology and evolution (eco-evo feedbacks), how plant-soil feedbacks may alter species range shifts under climate warming, and the role of microbial communities in mediating soil selective gradients. I’m also an avid climber, trail runner, and pancake connoisseur. NSF Graduate Research Fellow, University of Tennessee ReadCube Ambassador, INTJ.
I’m interested in experimenting with Populus angustifolia in the western U.S. to gain insight on how ecological interactions (plant-herbivore interactions, plant-soil interactions, etc.) and ecosystem functioning will respond to climate change and variation across the entirety of the species’ range. Studying community and ecosystem level interactions along elevational and latitudinal gradients in a genetic-based approach may further help our understanding of the linkage between plant ecology and related evolutionary frameworks.
I am excited to be investigating plant colonization and how specific phenotypes are better at surviving in these harsh environments. My current field site on the Island of Hawai’i offers interesting questions in both ecology, evolution and biogeochemistry. Specifically, I want to investigate how Metrosideros polymorpha (Ohia) colonizes recent lava flows and what plant-“soil” feedbacks are created in these harsh conditions. I am originally from the Island of Oahu and as a result, I love the ocean. My other interests include theater, cooking, and exploring.
My research aims to explore the evolutionary and ecological drivers of variation in plant performance in a changing world. My current work addresses whether macroevolutionary variation in species’ responses to nitrogen enrichment are consistent with selection across environmental gradients and functional constraints, and how plant interactions with soil microorganisms mediate their responses to nitrogen enrichment.
I am interested in discovering how intraspecific genetic variation affects plant-soil interactions, and the implications of these interactions for contemporary evolution and species range shifts. Currently, I am working on plant-soil feedback experiments with Rhododendron spp. in the southern Appalachian mountains. Before coming to UT for graduate school, I conducted applied and academic research with the National Park Service, the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council and various labs at UT. When I’m not in the lab or greenhouse, you’ll find me running or hiking with my dog Chuck.
I am interested in using plant-soil linkages and feedbacks to explore how plant-soil-microbe interactions and ecosystem functioning will respond to climate change. Specifically, I am interested in investigating how the interaction of root associated mycorrhizas and free-living microbes may mediate plant responses to climate change and how these interactions influence ecosystem function (e.g. nutrient cycling) in a novel environment.
My interests revolve around plant-soil feedbacks, evolutionary linkages, and ecosystem dynamics. My research is in early development, but I hope to explore how trait evolution among plants and their soil microbial communities drive changes in ecosystem structure and functioning. Outside of the lab, I enjoy hiking and exploring in the forests of the Southeast and the Appalachians.
Former lab members
PhD 2012, co-advised with Joe Bailey
Current position: ORISE Post-Doctoral Fellow, National Center for Environmental Assessment, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Current position: PhD Student, Yale University, Bradford Lab
Some of the many fantastic undergraduate researchers who have previously worked in the lab!
Peter Meidl (2013-2015)
Caroline Daws (2013-2015)
Charles Witt (2015)
Hannah Long (2012-2013)
Kelli McLane (2012)
Danny Lusk (2011)
Naeko Omomo (2011)
John Senior (2011)
Devin Jones (2009-2010)
Brett Ashenfelter (2008-2011)
Nicole Hergott (2008-2010)
Derek Dawson (2008-2010)
Logan Elmore (2008-2009)
Emily Giles (2007)