As a Soil Ecologist I serve on the Point Blue Working Lands Team to help monitor rangeland carbon for ecosystem services. I am thrilled to contribute to this team of scientists and practitioners who care deeply about the land and natural resources. I contribute to protocol design and focus on the impact of conservation practices on ecosystem carbon above and belowground. This field research always gives me a sense of awe for the beauty and diversity supported by working lands, from the underground abundant soil fauna and microbes to the communities of plants and animals, including humans.
Prior to this rangeland research, I earned my B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation and a minor in Wilderness Studies (U of Montana, Missoula) and then my PhD in Ecology, in Soil and Crop Sciences (Colorado State University, Fort Collins). For my graduate research, I analyzed the impact of organic amendments, such as biochar and manure, on soil carbon sequestration and microbial nutrient cycling. With a USDA NIFA Predoctoral Fellowship I studied these interactions in dryland ecosystems in CO and participated in an NSF Program to study soil microbiology in Senegal, where I again learned the strength of above and belowground networks. Most recently, I collaborated on an international project with the Arequipa Nexus Institute in Peru as part of the Soil Health Assessment Team at Purdue University. Here, we used a rapid screening of soil chemical properties to test for carbon accumulation and heavy metals (2020). Critical components of this work included capacity building with partner universities, field education for undergraduates, and learning from producers in the Andean highlands.
I remain dedicated to environmental field education, teaching undergraduate courses for the Wild Rockies Field Institute (MT), and previously climate change and natural history courses for No Barriers Youth (CO), Gastineau Guiding (AK), and Tryon Creek State Park (OR). I am in my home ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest, having grown up in Portland, and I am now delighted to be based out of the gorgeous Petaluma area, with research ranging around the West. When not ogling over the beautiful CA soils, plants, and animals, I enjoy trad climbing, learning to sail and surf, and biking or running on trails in the woods as frequently as possible.
Email: Erika Foster