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.


  • 18Dec
  • We are hiring! Click here to apply for a Junior Specialist position at Russell Ranch!
  • 13Dec
  • Yesterday Kate gave an NRCS webinar on partnering with microbes on the farm to boost soil health. Check it out here.
  • 1Dec
  • Nicole Tautges has just joined us as the Research Manager for Russell Ranch! Welcome, Nicole!



Mar 1, 2018, 3:18 PM
Jul 19, 2017, 10:01 AM


The Century Experiment: The first twenty years of UC Davis' Mediterranean agroecological experiment

Kristina M. Wolf, Emma E. Torbert, Dennis Bryant, Martin Burger, R. Ford Denison, Israel Herrera, Jan Hopmans, Will Horwath, Stephen Kaffka, Angela Y. Y. Kong, R. F. Norris, Johan Six, Thomas P. Tomich, Kate M. Scow

Published online 18 January 2018