A microbial perspective

By Kelly S Ramirez

This past winter went by in a hurry. Workshops, data analysis and proposals, combined with a few weekend trips resulted in surprise and slight panic when I realized on Monday that it was already April 1st. We all tend to get caught up in work and our daily lives, and I sometimes question if I make enough time to appreciate the science I work on.

Currently, I am working on a project surveying the biodiversity in the soil in Central Park NYC. We are examining all the life- bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes -in the soils of Central Park, and this is one project where I really do appreciate the underlying science. Continue reading


Soil Equality

Forest soil under lodegpole pine in Lyons, Colorado. Photo courtesy of Andrea Borkenhagen, 2013.

Forest soil under lodegpole pine in Lyons, Colorado. Photo courtesy of Andrea Borkenhagen, 2013.

By Kelly S. Ramirez, PhD

As a soil ecologist, I am inevitably asked about dirt (and lawn care), but mainly dirt. Depending on the person and my mood and the event, I may quip back, ‘dirt is under your fingernails.’* Some inquirer’s eyes will glaze over, realizing I was the wrong person to make small talk with at said event. Others will eye me apologetically.

Soil, not dirt, is the foundation of our terrestrial ecosystems, maintains our food sources, cleans and cycles our water, regulates climate change, controls disease, and supports our cultural activities and recreation (Wall and Nielsen, 2012). Continue reading

An Early Career Ecologist in The NY Times = Science Communication at its Best

A toy wagon transports scientific equipment to Toolik Field Station on the North Slope of Alaska (parked here beneath the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline). Photo Credit: Mike SanClements, 2012.

Field work is often the basis of ecological research. It allows researchers to directly assess the natural world and its many complexities. It also gives us access to many things we rarely encounter in our daily lives . . . Adventure? Definitely. Awesome landscapes? Duh. The Arctic? Yep. Wait, what? No, way. Who works in the Arctic? Now, that’s worth writing home about!

And, that is precisely what one of our very own ecologists, Dr. Mike SanClements, did following his most recent trip to the Toolik Field Station in Alaska’s Arctic Tundra. Check out his field notes on his adventures in climate change research via The New York Times’ Dot Earth blog: Creating a Vital Long View for Gauging Environmental Change. The best science (and scientist) is pounding the pavement and communicating with the masses. Go, Mike!

A few of my favorite things…

By Kelly Ramirez

The influence of global changes (climate change, nitrogen deposition, urbanization, etc) on microbial communities is really one of my favorite research topics and sustains my job as a science policy – microbial ecologist (that is a thing, right?). Last month Drs. Jennifer Lau and Jay Lennon published in PNAS, on a few of my favorite things– “Rapid responses of soil microorganisms improve plant fitness in novel environments.” Soil, microbes, plants, global change, complex interactions- what more could you ask for? Continue reading

Early Career Ecologist Profile: Meet Kelly S Ramirez

Cedar Creek Exp 001 (Nitrogen addition plots)

Hello readers! I apologize for having written such a serious first post without first introducing myself, my research, and my current job!I am not a Colorado native, but I have lived here for five years now; after getting my BA from Washington State University (GO COUGS!), I moved to Boulder. While at WSU – or rather while looking for grad schools – I discovered microbial ecology. There were a series of straightforward events that led me to my current research interests -> I took ecology. I took microbiology. I asked, can I combine ecology and microbes? Continue reading