Scow Soil Microbial Ecology Lab


Our interests lie below-ground, in soil, where life abounds yet is often neglected, and where unseen communities drive numerous ecological processes--energy flow, nutrient cycling, waste removal-- essential for growing our food and sustaining the ecosystems we share.

We investigate interactions between microorganisms, the soil physical-chemical environment, and the substances that flow through them. Our projects span the continuum from molecules to organisms to populations/communities to the field scale. We aim to expand our understanding of how bacteria, archaea and fungi make livings and endure the challenges of disturbed ecosystems, including agricultural and polluted environments. We implement this knowledge in collaborating with farmers to develop practices that support thriving soil biological communities and activities which, in turn, regenerate resilient agroecosystems that co-exist with the natural environment.

Areas of research include broad-scale questions such as: i) how carbon flow through soil microbial communities creates soil structure and sequesters carbon; ii) how to reduce impacts of soil disturbance (e.g. tillage) and climate extremes on soil communities and processes at different scales; and iii) long-term impact of different rotations and farming systems on soil biodiversity and function. We study biodegradation of contaminants by indigenous microbial communities in the subsurface and help develop low-cost bioremediation strategies that build on microbial processes. We've also collaborated using participatory action research with smallholder farmers in Uganda to develop gender-aware and climate-smart irrigation technologies--and associated governance strategies--for vegetable production.


  • 8Jan
  • Kalyn Diederich has joined our lab after getting her Masters at UW Madison. Kalyn will be doing her PhD with Kate and Mark Lundy. Welcome, Kalyn!
  • 13Dec
  • Yesterday Kate gave an NRCS webinar on partnering with microbes on the farm to boost soil health. Check it out here.
  • 26Oct
  • Kate and Deirdre attended the ASA-CSSA-SSSA Meeting this week where Kate gave the Nyle C. Brady Frontiers of Soil Science Lectureship and Deirdre won the poster competition in the Organic Management Systems community.
  • 29Aug
  • Our Soil Biology Workshop in June has gotten a great write-up from the Agricultural Sustainability Institute. Read it here and behold the "powers of microbes"!
  • 10Aug
  • Kate is currently in Uganda working with farmer groups on developing and setting up irrigation systems on their land.
  • 14Jun
  • Our entire lab participated in another successful Russell Ranch Field Day where we shared our research with farmers, industry, and other researchers from around the state.



Jul 19, 2017, 10:01 AM


Biochar additions can enhance soil structure and the physical stabilization of C in aggregates

Daoyuan Wang, Steven J. Fonte, Sanjai J. Parikh, Johan Six, Kate M. Scow

Published online 19 May 2017