Dr. Xia Zhu-Barker

I am a soil biogeochemist whose main interests are biogeochemical cycles and land management practices. My research is directed towards understanding how natural processes control the sustainability of agroecosystems in terms of carbon and nitrogen cycling, water movement, resource use efficiency, food production and quality, and the fate of pollutants. Within these areas, I have pursued the development of novel methodological approaches using stable isotopes, molecular biology techniques, quantitative exploration of soil, plant, and microbial interactions, and mechanistic assessments of land management practices that affect how ecosystems function. My vision is to contribute to the sustainability of agroecosystems by integrating biogeochemical, ecological, environmental, agronomic, economic, and social knowledge into the food, energy, and water aspects of management decisions. Dairy production in Wisconsin is a particularly vital area in which to investigate how agroecosystems respond to a changing environment. I am currently looking for graduate students and postdocs who are eager to engage in fundamental research on the following topics: 1) Microbial and abiotic processes involved in the production and consumption of atmospheric trace gases; 2) Land management practices (e.g., compost, fertilizer, cover crops, irrigation, and tillage) that change soil health, nitrogen use efficiency, crop productivity, nitrogen losses, carbon turnover; 3) Process-oriented modelling of carbon/nitrogen turnover in agricultural ecosystems; 4) Environmental impacts on the sustainability and resilience of agricultural ecosystems, especially dairy production.

I am originally from Chongqing, and my work has taken me through diverse environments from Northeast China to Southwest China to agricultural systems in the western US. Along the way I have had the privilege of meeting people from many different backgrounds, and look forward to beginning a rewarding career at UW Madison. Yoga, especially Bikram yoga, hiking, and gardening are my treats.

Savannah Hass

Photo of Savannah Hass

Savannah is a fourth year PhD student at the University of California, Davis in the Soils and Biogeochemistry Graduate Group and is co-advised with Dr. William Horwath. She earned a B.S. in Biochemistry at Villanova University, where she also gained passion for sustainable agriculture. Her research focuses on compost effects on C and N cycling dynamics in both the soil and plants, specifically tomatoes and olives. In her spare time she enjoys gardening, crafting, and spending time with her fiancé and cats.

Claire Hudson

Photo of Claire HudsonClaire is a graduate of Tulane University with a B.S. in Earth and Environmental Science. She is interested in farm runoff water quality, soil health, and improving nutrient management through agroecological practices. Currently based in Sacramento, CA, Claire is passionate about adapting water-limited agriculture to maintain food system stability in a changing climate.

Andrew Curtright

Photo of Andrew Curtright

Andrew studies the microbial ecology of the soil, focusing on the myriad ways that soil carbon influences the nitrogen cycle. He seeks to unite biochemical mechanisms with ecological principles to explain microbial interactions in the soil. He developed these interests during his Ph.D. study at Michigan State University with Dr. Lisa Tiemann and currently pursues related questions as a postdoctoral scholar in Dr. Zhu-Barker’s research group at UC Davis. Outside of the lab, Andrew enjoys cooking, eating, and running. He has strong opinions about Star Wars.

Finnley Weigel

Finnley Weigel standing underneath a rock formation

Finnley is a third year undergraduate student in UW-Madison’s College of Letters & Science. He is majoring in Environmental Geology, and is also working towards a certificate in Environmental Studies. He has a strong passion for the protection of the environment, and how the environment is impacted by external factors or events. He hopes to someday pursue a career that would involve sustainability, or would like to do research with a focus on the geologic impacts humanity has on Earth and how to mitigate them. In his free time, Finnley loves being outdoors, playing video games, cooking, and spending time with friends.

Lab Alumni