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: Joy Cookingham, Scott Mitchell, Katy Dynarski, Sara Enders, Scott Morford, Benjamin Houlton
- 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.
- 10/14, Ben has been named to the editorial board (Associate Editor) of the scientific journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles.
- 10/14, Joy's description of our ongoing research in Belizian lowland tropical rainforest has appeared in the "Bladen Review".
- 9/14, Scott Mitchell has joined the Houlton and Dahlgren lab groups to work on our new rock nitrogen weathering project. Welcome aboard - we're excited to have Scott in our groups.
- 8/14, Ben, Joy, Alison, Meagan, Erin and Sara all presented research findings at the Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America.
- 6/14, A huge congratulations to Alison, Scott, Meagan and Erin on completing their graduate theses. I feel truly privelaged to have served as the primary advisor to these wonderful, budding scientists.
- 5/14, Our proposal has been selected for funding (~$3 million over three years) by the NSF's Integrated Earth Systems program. Ben is lead PI on the project which seeks to examine molecular to global scale controls on the availability of rock nitrogen to land-ecosystems worldwide. This project aims to improve our understanding of the terrestrial CO2 sink and climate change via measurments, experiments and global modeling activities. The co-PIs of this highly interdisciplinary team include Randy Dahlgren, Oliver Chadwick, Bodo Bookhagen, Kathleen Treseder, Ying-Ping Wang and Scott Morford.
- 3/14, Congratulations to Katy for receiving the prestigious NSF graduate research fellowship.