The Graduate Group in Soils and Biogeochemistry, hosted in the department of Land, Air and Water Resources, offers programs of study and research leading to M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. The Soils and Biogeochemistry Graduate Group focuses on the study of physical, chemical, and biological processes in diverse soils on a variety of landforms and ecosystems. The goal is to understand the complex processes of mass and energy flow that control agricultural and natural ecosystem functions, productivity, and sustainability. Research projects also explore impacts and implications of both natural and anthropogenic activities—notably climate change, land use change and pollution—on soil at different scales, from the plot to ecosystems, landscapes, regions, and the planet. 

Topics of study include: mechanisms and monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions; pesticide and trace element adsorption on surfaces; mineral weathering; fate and transport of native and applied chemicals; soil microbial ecology; soil carbon sequestration; nutrient uptake and management; nutrient cycling through managed and wildland ecosystems; organic agriculture; above and below-ground biodiversity; soil erosion; conservation; ecosystem productivity and sustainability; role of soil in ecosystem services; and the study of soil evolution on the landscape. These studies are carried out within a framework of integrating the chemical, physical, and biological sciences that constitute the study of soils and biogeochemistry and often reflect a rich history of collaborating with farmers, environmental groups, regulators, and other relevant stakeholder groups. The Soils and Biogeochemistry program at UC Davis offers a unique opportunity to investigate soils throughout the diverse regions of California, in the US, and globally in a number of international projects.  Studies target agricultural, forest and grassland, coastal, wetland and urban ecosystems.


Achieving Diversity

Soils & Biogeochemistry Graduate Group at UC Davis values a diversity of viewpoints, backgrounds, and experiences among its students—as this diversity strengthens and enriches our research, scholarship, and teaching. A diverse graduate student population also enhances the academic experiences for all students.  We are committed to achieving diversity and a multicultural academic environment that supports the success of all graduate students.

Our group encourages interactions, interdisciplinary work, and group activities outside of class and students' primary research emphasis, such as  opportunities to be involved in the LAWR Mentorship Program, Environmentors (working with high school students), and as well as multiple outreach activities around climate change, ecosystem services, and other topics. 


Areas of Concentration

Adaptation of plants to soil stress: Mechanisms of drought, salinity, nutrient competition, and toxics on plant growth and rhizosphere processes

Contaminant and solute transport in the vadose zone: groundwater recharge, modeling of subsurface heterogeneity and groundwater flow, fate and transport of contaminants

Ecosystem biogeochemistry: effects of vegetation, soil management, climate change and pollution on nutrient transformations and fates, and on productivity, carbon sequestration in agricultural and wildland ecosystems

Environmental chemistry: mineral/organic/solution interactions in soils and impacts on environmental pollution, fate of antibiotics and personal care products in the environment, water quality, mineral weathering and soil fertility, plant nutrition, soil reclamation, impacts of biochar and biosolids on soil and plants.

Greenhouse gas emissions in relation to soil and land use: transport and transformations of nitrogen, carbon, and volatile organic compounds, agricultural management to reduce gaseous losses

Microbial ecology: biodegradation and in situ treatment of contaminated groundwater, molecular methods for characterizing soil microorganisms in diverse ecosystems, responses of microbial communities to ecosystem disturbance and soil management, soil food webs

Soil landscape relationships: factors of soil formation, genesis of soils in relation to land, air and water resources, erosion, conservation of unique California ecosystems and landscapes