CEE doctoral student Hannah Woo received funding from the NSF East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute to conduct research in China last summer on the effect of elevated nitrogen deposition in soil carbon. Nitrogen deposition occurs when gaseous nitrogen emissions from anthropogenic activities deposit back down into the soil, and it is a serious problem in China. The deposition rates are already at unprecedented levels and they’re still increasing. Woo’s research is attempting to answer how this deposition level will affect the soil properties, especially the important soil organic compounds that provide essential nutrients.
Woo looked at the lignin fraction within the soil organics because it’s usually a slow changing fraction amongst all of the carbon pools, but people are unsure if that’s going to be true with higher and higher nitrogen levels. Disruptions in the soil are going to be felt up the food chain as changes in carbon and nitrogen perturb essential microbial processes, flora, and fauna.
“This was my first visit to China and it was a great experience in terms of the research, culture, sightseeing and food,” said Woo. “Dr. XuDong Zhang and Dr. Hongbo He at the Chinese Academy of Science, Institute of Applied Ecology were wonderful hosts who helped me collect soil samples from the Changbai Mountainside, which is a very remote area in Northeast China.”
One of the things that impressed Woo the most about graduate school culture in China was the community amongst the graduate students. “The students work together a lot more often than we do,” she noted. “I had a short amount of time for my project, so my Chinese labmates came together and helped me out a lot.”
Woo’s experience was important for her culturally as well as academically. “As a lab, we ate all our meals together nearly every day,” she said. “They taught me how to make Chinese food like chive and egg dumplings.”
“Hannah is one of our superstars, having found new sources of collaboration and funding from multiple agencies and internationally,” said Dr. Terry Hazen. “She is all a CEE VOL should be.”