Understanding our environment

Sharon Billings

Senior Scientist, Kansas Biological Survey
Dean's Professor, Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Primary office:
154 Higuchi Hall


Research Interests

  • Ecosystem ecology
  • Climate change
  • Soil organic matter
  • Microbial ecology
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Stable isotope ecology

Academic degrees
Ph.D., Ecosystems Ecology, Duke University, 1998
M.S., Ecosystems Ecology Duke University, 1996
B.A., Political Science, University of New Hampshire, 1991

NASA Earth System Science Graduate Fellowship, 1995–1998
Governor's Success Scholarship, University of New Hampshire, 1987–1991

Program affiliation
KU Ecosystems Research Group

Area of specialization
Global change biology

Research interests
Research in Sharon's lab is diverse, working across scales, taxa and ecosystems. Historically, the lab has explored how perturbations such as drought, elevated CO2 and habitat fragmentation can influence above- and below-ground carbon and nitrogen cycling. These efforts have been funded by  the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Energy. A current, primary focus is the influence of climate change on interactions between soil microorganisms and soil organic matter, microbial production of CO2 and N2O, and microbial population and community dynamics. The lab explores these and related questions in soils from boreal forests, mid-western grasslands and warm temperate forests. Related work explicitly incorporates elements of land use change, disturbance and ecosystem recovery into investigations of biogeochemical cycles, both above and below ground.

A significant fraction of the lab's work relies on stable isotopes and the isotopic fingerprints imparted by biological and chemical fluxes on ecosystem pools of carbon and nitrogen.  Much of the isotope data is developed at KU’s W.M. Keck Paleoenvironmental and Environmental Stable Isotope Laboratory or via cavity ring down spectroscopy.  The lab also employs data describing microbial communities and their activities, developed at the KU Center for Metagenomic Microbial Community Analysis.

Please see a list of Sharon's publications on her lab website.


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