Charlotte Alster

Sustainability Leadership Fellowship Cohort: 2015-2016

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Biology

Research Summary: My research aims to understand how microbial communities in soil vary in their response to changes in temperature and what impact this has on global carbon modeling. Soil microorganisms play a critical role in ecosystems, breaking down leaf litter and converting nutrients into plant accessible forms. In the process of carrying out these ecosystem functions, microbes respire, producing an order of magnitude more CO2 than is released by human sources. Soils contain four times more carbon than the atmosphere; because respiration rates often increase with temperature, atmospheric carbon contributed by soil requires full inclusion in any climate change discussion.