• Waring Ecology Lab

    Plant, microbial, and ecosystem ecology

  • Lab News

    April 14 2020

    Jessica Murray has received a Fulbright award to study carbon cycling in páramo soils with Dr. Andrea Vincent at the University of Costa Rica! Congratulations Jess!

    March 27 2020

    Karen Foley successfully defended her Masters thesis on carbon cycling in Alaskan wetlands. Congratulations Karen on a fantastic presentation and an amazing body of research!

    March 2020

    I am thrilled to announce that the Waring Lab is moving to the Department of Life Sciences and the Grantham Institute - Climate Change and Environment at Imperial College London in June 2020!

    December 10 2019

    Savannah has written a great article on climate change for the Outdoor Advocacy Project, which aims to educate and empower the outdoor enthusiast community.

    August 23 2019

    The Waring lab is excited to welcome two new graduate students: Savannah Adkins and Sam Willard.

    August 6 2019

    The Waring lab has received two new research grants: one from the Department of Energy Terrestrial Ecosystem Science program to investigate microbial roles in soil carbon cycling, and one from the NSF Macrosystems program to study carbon-nitrogen cycle interactions with Colin Averill and Samantha Weintraub. We are very excited to launch these new projects!

    January 4 2019

    Congratulations to Jessica, who just received two grants to support her research on Costa Rican canopy soils - a Sigma Xi Grant-in-aid of Research and an Organization for Tropical Studies Research Fellowship. Felicidades!

    January 1 2019

    The lab welcomes Guopeng Liang, a PhD student interested in climatic controls on soil carbon cycling in drylands.

    September 20 2018

    Kenny's first post-doc paper, examining climatic and edaphic controls on dryland soil carbon stocks, is published in Ecosystems. Congratulations Kenny!

    August 2018

    Interested in joining the Waring lab? I am recruiting a PhD student to start in Fall 2019. Learn more about our work at ESA (and check out our organized oral session on mechanisms of soil organic matter formation)! Contact me at [email protected] to set up a meeting.

    June 2018

    The Waring Lab field season is in full swing: Karen and Bonnie just returned from Alaska to start an incubation experiment with high-latitude wetland soils. Meanwhile, Jess is wrapping up her canopy soils surveys in Monteverde and preparing to visit the Barva Transect near La Selva Biological Station. Check out the photos from both sites below!

    May 10-13 2018

    The Waring lab hosted a technical tree climbing course for canopy researchers, taught by expert arborist Tyler Zuniga, ahead of Jessica's first field season studying canopy soils in Costa Rica.

    April 16 2018

    The Waring lab welcomes Karen Foley, a new Master's student who will be working on carbon-climate feedbacks in high-latitude wetlands. We are also excited to have undergraduate researchers Zach Anthony and Lizzy Lasley on board for fieldwork this summer. Welcome everyone!

    February 26 2018

    The Waring lab spent the weekend in Moab, UT, sampling soils from the USGS long-term ecosystem warming experiment. Of course, we also found time to do some hiking and see some of the amazing petroglyphs in the area. Check out the lab photos in the gallery below! (All the nice ones were taken by Kenny.)

    November 10 2017

    Colin Averill and I have published a new framework for understanding how nitrogen deposition affects ecosystem carbon storage. Check it out here!

    August 15 2017

    A big welcome to Jessica Murray, who is joining the Waring lab as a PhD student!

    May 30 2017

    How do historical climate conditions shape soil microbes' contemporary responses to environmental variation? The Hawkes lab used multiple experimental approaches to address this question, and our results have just been published in PNAS.

    January 12 2017

    The Waring lab has grown! Post-doc researcher Kenny Smith has joined the lab to work on a project involving microbial controls on soil organic matter formation. We also have two new undergraduate researchers, Julienne Henrie and Preston Christensen. Welcome everyone!

    November 21 2016

    Our new review of belowground biomass allocation in tropical forests has been published in Forest Ecology and Management.

    October 24 2016

    Our new paper on the microbial mechanisms underlying the Birch effect is out at Environmental Research Letters! Check it out here.

    August 9 2016

    I spoke at the 2016 Ecological Society of America conference about my research on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi along gradients of nutrient availability. A paper related to this work was recently published here.

    August 1 2016

    I have started my position at Utah State! I am recruiting graduate students, undergraduate students, and post-docs. Contact me at [email protected] for more information.

  • Research

    In order to mitigate the effects of global climate change on the environment, we need a predictive understanding of the ecological interactions that drive biogeochemical processes. To that end, we study how plant and soil microbial communities mediate carbon cycling in a diverse array of terrestrial ecosystems .

    The role of soil microbes in the stabilization and cycling of soil carbon

    Soil is one of the most chemically complex substances on earth, and represents the largest terrestrial carbon pool. One of our major objectives is to understand how microbial physiology and community structure influence the formation and turnover of soil C along broad environmental gradients.

    Tropical forest responses to climate change

    Tropical forests exchange more carbon with the atmosphere than any other biome, and are experiencing rapid changes in climate and land use. We use a combination of observational and manipulative experiments to understand how the composition and function of these forests will change under future climates.

    Plant-mycorrhizal interactions

    Mycorrhizal fungi are ubiquitous root symbionts that play a major role in plant nutrient acquisition and influence the cycling of soil carbon. Our goal is to understand how soil nutrient stoichiometry influences the ecological relationship between plant and fungus in both arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal systems.

  • People

    Bonnie Waring

    Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Utah State University

    Jessica Murray

    Graduate Student

    Karen Foley

    Graduate Student

    Guopeng Liang

    Graduate Student

    Savannah Adkins

    Graduate Student

    Sam Willard

    Graduate Student

  • Lab Alumni

    Kenny Smith

    Postdoctoral Research Associate

  • Publications


    Open data policy: Whenever possible, the Waring lab ensures that our raw data is freely and publicly available. Links to Dryad data repositories (https://datadryad.org) are provided alongside the relevant publications.



    • Wooliver R, Pellegrini A, Waring BG, Houlton B, Averill C, Schimel J, Hedin L, Bailey J, Schweitzer J. 2019. Changing perspectives on terrestrial nitrogen cycling: The importance of weathering and evolved resource‐use traits for understanding ecosystem responses to global change. Functional Ecology DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.13377
    • Waring BG, Pérez-Avilez D, Murray JG, Powers JS. 2019. Plant community responses to stand-level nutrient fertilization in a secondary tropical dry forest. Ecology DOI: 10.1002/ecy.2691 (https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.mq62g78)
    • Medvigy D, Wang G, Zhu Q, Riley WJ, Trierweiler AM, Waring BG, Xu X, Powers JS. 2019. Observed variation in soil properties can drive large variation in modeled forest functioning and composition during tropical forest secondary succession. New Phytologist DOI: 10.1111/nph.15848


    • Smith KR, Waring BG. 2018 Broad-scale patterns of soil carbon pools and fluxes across semiarid ecosystems are linked to climate and soil texture. Ecosystems DOI: 10.1007/s10021-018-0299-0 (https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.7r3742r)
    • Waring BG, Hawkes CV. 2018. Ecological mechanisms underlying soil bacterial responses to rainfall along a steep natural precipitation gradient. ​FEMS Microbiology Ecology 94(2): fiy001
    • Averill CA, Waring BG. 2018. Nitrogen limitation of decomposition and decay: how can it occur? Global Change Biology 24: 1417-1427
    • Werden LK, Waring BG, Smith-Martin C, Powers JS. 2017. Tropical dry forest trees and lianas differ in leaf economic spectrum traits but have overlapping water-use strategies. Tree Physiology 38: 517-530  (https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.5hj20q2)
    • Hawkes CV, Waring BG, Rocca JD, Kivlin SN. 2017. Historical climate controls soil respiration responses to current soil moisture. PNAS DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1620811114
    • Smith CM, Gei MG, Bergstrom E, Becklund KK, Becknell JM, Waring BG, Werden LK, Powers JS. 2017. Effects of soil type and light in height growth, biomass partitioning, and nitrogen dynamics on 22 species of tropical dry forest tree seedlings: comparisons between legumes and non-legumes. American Journal of Botany 104(3): 399-410.
    • Allen KA, Dupuy JM, Gei MG, Hülshoff C, Medvigy D, Piano C, Salgado-Negret B, Smith CM, Trierweiler A, Van Bloem SJ, Waring BG, Xu X, Powers JS. 2017. Will seasonally dry tropical forests be sensitive or resistant to future changes in rainfall regimes? Environmental Research Letters 12(2): 023001
    • Waring BG, Powers JS. 2017. Overlooking what is underground: root:shoot ratios and coarse root allometric equations for tropical forests. Forest Ecology and Management 385: 10-15


    • Waring BG, Powers JS. 2016. Unravelling the mechanisms underlying pulse dynamics of soil respiration in tropical dry forests. Environmental Research Letters 11(10): 105005 (https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.2hd320d)

    • Waring BG, †Rosenthal LR, Gei MG, Powers JS. 2016. Plant-mycorrhizal interactions along a gradient of soil fertility in tropical dry forest. Journal of Tropical Ecology 32: 314-323
    • †Schilling E, Waring BG, Powers JS. 2016. Forest composition modifies effects of litter chemistry on decomposition in regenerating tropical dry forests. Oecologia 182: 287-297 (https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.gd2jc7f )
    • Sinsabaugh RL, Turner BL, Talbot JM, Waring BG, Powers JS, Kuske CR, Moorhead DL, Follstad Shah J. Stoichiometry of microbial carbon use efficiency in soils. 2016. Ecological Monographs 86: 172-189
    • Averill C, Waring BG, and Hawkes CV. 2016. Historical precipitation predictably alters the shape and magnitude of microbial functional response to soil moisture. Global Change Biology doi: 10.1111/gcb.13219
    • Livingston G, Waring BG, Pacheco LF, Gilbert L, Buchori D, Jiang Y, Jha S. 2016. Perspectives on the global disparity in ecological science. BioScience doi: 10.1093/biosci/biv175


    • Waring BG, Adams R, Branco S, and Powers JS. 2015. Scale-dependent variation in nitrogen cycling and soil fungal communities along gradients of forest composition and age in regenerating tropical dry forests. New Phytologist DOI: 10.1111/nph.13654 (https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.22q68sq)
    • Waring BG, Alvarez-Cansino L, Barry K, Becklund K, Dale S, Gei M, Keller A, Lopez O, Markesteijn L, Mangan S, Riggs C, Segnitz M, Schnitzer S, and Powers JS. 2015. Pervasive and strong effects of plants on soil chemistry: a meta-analysis of individual plant ‘Zinke’ effects. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 282: 1-8 (https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.15kb3)
    • Powers JS, Becklund KK, Gei MG, Iyengar SB, Meyer R, O'Connell CS, Schilling EM, Smith CM, Waring BG, and Werden LK. 2015. Nutrient addition effects on tropical dry forests: a mini-review from microbial to ecosystem scales. Frontiers in Earth Science DOI 10.3389/feart.2015.00034
    • Waring BG, Becknell JB, and Powers JS. 2015. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and cation use efficiency in stands of regenerating tropical dry forest. Oecologia 178(3): 887-897 (https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m900b)
    • Waring BG & Hawkes CV. 2015. Short-term precipitation exclusion alters microbial responses to soil moisture in a wet tropical forest. Microbial Ecology 69(4): 843-854 (https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.5g0mr64)


    • Waring BG, Weintraub SR, and Sinsabaugh RL. 2014. Ecoenzymatic stoichiometry of microbial nutrient acquisition in tropical soils. Biogeochemistry 117(1): 101-113


    • Waring BG, Averill C, and Hawkes CV. 2013. Differences in fungal and bacterial physiology alter soil C and N cycling: insights from meta-analysis and theoretical models. Ecology Letters 16(7): 887-894.
    • Waring BG. 2013. Exploring relationships between enzyme activities and leaf litter decomposition in a wet tropical forest. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 64: 89-95.
    • Kivlin SN, Waring BG, Averill C, and Hawkes CV. 2013. Tradeoffs in microbial carbon allocation may mediate soil carbon storage in future climates. Frontiers in Terrestrial Microbiology 4 Article 261
    • Lucas RW, Salguero-Gomez R, Cobb DB, Waring BG, Anderson F, McShea WJ, and Casper BB. 2013. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) positively affect the growth of mature northern red oak (Quercus rubra) trees. Ecosphere 4(7) Article 84


    • Waring BG. 2012. A meta-analysis of climatic and chemical controls on leaf litter decay rates in tropical forests. Ecosystems 15(6): 999-1009.

    †Student mentee co-author

  • Where we work

    The Waring lab travels all over the world to study the soil carbon cycle and its feedbacks to global change. Our current projects span the tundra to the tropics... check out our site photos below!

    Guopeng is conducting experiments within an ecosystem warming experiment (established by our collaborators Sasha Reed, Colin Tucker, and others at the USGS Southwest Biological Science Center) near Moab, UT

    Karen Foley is examining controls on greenhouse gas production by soil microbes in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, AK

    A view from one of Jess's study trees in Monteverde, Costa Rica, where she is examining carbon cycling in canopy soils