Welcome to the Houlton lab! Please explore the links for information about our research activities and achievements. Please feel free to contact Ben at bzhoulton ‘at’ ucdavis ‘dot’ edu with any queries.
Houlton group, 2014-2015. Left to right: Pawlok Dass, Scott Mitchell, Katy Dynarski, Rebecca Walker, Benjamin Houlton, Eriko Murata, Rafaela Lins
- 10/15, Rafaela Lins, a doctoral student working on forests in Brazil, will be visiting the Houlton lab for several months. Rafaela is interested in nutrient and carbon cycling in pristine vs. human altered tropical forests. In addition, Eriko Murata is visiting from Japan and is working in collaboration with the group on developing a new way to trace nitrogen oxides from natural and human sources into the air we breathe. This work has implications for understanding the human health risks of nitrogen use for food production.
- 9/15, Congratulations to Dr. Joy Winbourne for completing her doctoral dissertation. Joy's research focused on the biogeochemistry of poorly studied tropical rainforests in the Maya Mountains of Belize. Joy discovered new, fascinating linkages between iron and the nitrogen cycle, with implications for biodiversity conservation and the capacity for tropical forests to absorb CO2 emissions. Joy will be pursuing a postdoctoral position at Brown University and will continue to explore tropical forests, this time the substantially altered Atlantic forests in Brazil. I am so proud of Dr. Winbourne!
- 8/15, Joy and Katy presented their research findings to the Ecologial Society of America at the annual meeting held in Baltimore, MD.
- 8/15, Learn about how our new global nitrogen tracking scheme is being used to improve climate change forecasts for the IPCC here.
- 5/15, Tracing nitrogen's journey through the climate system, our work highlighted in "Futurity".
- 4/23/15, Nitrogen use for food production is resulting in billions of dollars of economic damages, as its cycle has major impacts on climate change, human health and environmental quality. We have developed a new technique to trace nitrogen's journey from the land to global air and water systems: Houlton et al. 2015 Nature Climate Change. This will improve our ability to understand the human health risks of nitrogen fertilizer use and the role of nitrogen in climate change.
- 4/22/15, Happy Earth Day. "That which is not payed for is overused." Nowhere is Lawrence Summers's statement more relevant than to the sustainability of planet Earth.
- 4/15, Rebecca Walker will be joining the Houlton group to pursue her M.S. degree in fall of 2015. Rebecca is in the process of completing her undergraduate degrees in Environmental Science and Anthropology at the University of Virginia. We are excited to have her join our group.
- 3/15, Sara returned from a three month trip to JAMSTEC, where she was working on measuring the isotopic composition of nitrogen in ancient plant samples. The results of this work will allow us to understand how nitrogen interacted with ecosystems in the past, and thus provide insights into the rapid environmental changes that are occuring now, particularly those related to climate change, greenhouse gases, and nitrogen pollution effects on the biosphere.
- 1/15, Ben has co-authored with his Chinese and Japanese colleagues a new article that has been published in PNAS. The paper uses a novel approach to fingerprint and estimate the amount of gaseous nitrogen that escapes forest ecosystems annually. The new approach uses a simple model and isotopes of nitrogen and oxygen to demonstrate that bacteria release more nitrogen to the atmosphere than previuosly thought, suggesting a more prominant role for denitrification in forest nutrient availaiblity.
- 12/14, Ben particpated in a Science Europe think-tank on model development and application to problems in the life and physical sciences. The meeting took place in Brussels in the famous Solvay Conference room, and included around 15 scientists from different disciplines - cancer research, RNA folding, public safety, the galaxy, etc. It was a very rewarding experience to meet such a broad group of thinkers and have the chance to discuss how the Houlton lab has been applying models to problems related to global nutrient cycles.
- 11/14, Ben just returned from a week-long trip to the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, where he delivered a short course of lectures to the Global Informations program on nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon cycles. The visit was facilitated by Dr. Keisuke Koba, and also involved a research symposium and a visit to JAMSTEC's department of biogeochemisty, which is led by our colleague Dr. Nao Ohkouchi. The trip was extremely auspiscious and will lead to even greater collaborations between the Houlton, Koba and Ohkouchi labs in the future. We are especially interested in using very precise measures of isotopes in ancient plant compounds to examine how biogeochemical cycles responded to climate change in the past, which can provide a unique perspective on the future.