Kelly Gravuer

M.Sc. (Ecology), Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand, 2005
Sc.B. (Biology), Brown University, Providence, RI, 2002

Research Interests

  • I study the ecology of soil microbial communities in grasslands and agricultural systems. Soil microbes are the tiny engines that run the world - they control the supply of nutrients to plants, influence global climate by changing the composition of the atmosphere, change the soil’s capacity to hold on to nutrients and water by decomposing organic materials, and perform other critical functions. Broadly, my research seeks to help us better predict how what we do - from large-scale anthropogenic changes in climate to local-scale changes in management - will affect what they do. More specifically, I’m trying to figure out whether some of the predictive frameworks and tools that have been developed in plant ecology might - or might not - help us predict soil microbial responses to change. In serpentine and non-serpentine California grasslands, I’m collaborating with Anu Eskelinen and Susan Harrison to refine methods for predicting functional traits of soil microbes and ask how community trait distributions change in response to experimental changes in precipitation patterns and nutrient supply. Specifically, we’re interested in comparing these shifts to functional trait responses that Anu and Susan have documented in co-occurring plant communities. Furthermore, these same environmental change treatments have been implemented on three adjacent but very different soil types, and we’re interested in whether differences in soil type can fundamentally change how soil microbial communities respond to the changes - in terms of both composition and function. In row crop agriculture (tomatoes, corn, wheat), I’m collaborating with Kate Scow and Priyashiela Singh to understand how long-term changes in agricultural management (organic vs. conventional vs. low input management systems) can change the phylogenetic and trait-based composition of soil microbial communities. If so, how will these ecologically different communities respond to invasion by a nutrient-enriched community (live compost)? Are the patterns of invader establishment similar to those we see in plant communities, and how do these patterns relate to changes in community function? I believe the answers to these questions could help us better management compost addition for maximum agricultural benefit. I also work with the California Department of Food and Agriculture on understanding environmental benefits and costs of compost addition, through UC Davis’s Emerging Leaders in Policy and Public Service (ELIPPS) program. Finally, I’m collaborating with Grace Charles, David Kimiti, and Truman Young to understand how termite mounds create spatial heterogeneity in soil microbial communities in Kenya savannas, how these patterns relate to spatial heterogeneity of plant communities, and how loss of large mammalian herbivores (and/or additions of cattle) may affect these relationships.

Area of Emphasis

  • Ecosystem and Landscape Ecology

Major Professor

  • T. Young

Current Degree

  • PhD




  • Address
    PES 2236