Department of Zoology

Melany Fisk
Associate Professor

Terrestrial ecosystems, decomposition and nutrient cycling

160 PSN

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Office Hours:
  Monday . . . .
  Tuesday . . . . 9:30 - 10:45
  Wednesday . .
  Thursday. . . . 9:30 - 10:45
  Friday. . . . . . Others by appt.

Biographical Information:

I am interested in soil biota and their function in terrestrial ecosystem nutrient cycles. The soil component of ecosystems is amazingly diverse and structurally complex. Soil organisms include plant roots, mycorrhizal and saprophytic fungi, bacteria, and a multitude of soil fauna. Together, these form the detrital food web and are responsible for the decomposition of organic matter and the recycling of nutrients. Research in my laboratory investigates the interactions among plants and various types of soil organisms, with a general goal to learn about the biotic complexities that underlie responses of forest ecosystems to environmental change.

One aspect of our work examines the impacts of exotic earthworms on northeastern forest ecosystems. These large decomposer organisms completely alter the soil environment, and our studies test the consequences for other organisms in the detrital foodweb and for carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus biogeochemistry. Another aspect of our work explores plant and microbial responses to interactions among multiple nutrient elements (nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium), to better understand potential consequences of calcium depletion and nitrogen enrichment in forest ecosystems.

Courses Taught:

  1. BOT/ZOO 209, Fundamentals of Ecology
  2. ZOO 438/538, Soil Ecology and Sustainable Use
  3. BOT/MBI/ZOO 672, Global and Ecosystem Ecology

Recent Publications:

  1. Groffman, P.M., L.E. Rustadt, P.H. Templer, J.L. Campbell, L.M. Christenson, N.K. Lany, A.M. Socci, M.A. Vadeboncouer, P.G. Schaberg, G.F. Wilson, C.T. Driscoll, T.J. Fahey, M.C. Fisk, C.L. Goodale, M.B. Green, S.P. Hamburg, C.E. Johnson, M.J. Mitchell, J.L. Morse, L.H. Pardo, N.L Rodenhouse.  2012. Long-term integrated studies show that climate change effects are manifest in complex and surprising ways in the northern hardwood forest.  BioScience 62: 1056-1066.

  2. Dempsey, M.A., M.C. Fisk, and T.J. Fahey.  2011.  Earthworms increase the ratio of bacteria to fungi in northern hardwood forest soils, primarily by eliminating the organic horizon.  Soil Biology and Biochemistry 43: 2135-2141. 

  3. Groffman, P.M, and M.C. Fisk.  2011.  Calcium constrains plant control over forest ecosystem nitrogen cycling.  Ecology 92: 2035-2042.

  4. Minick, K.J., M.C. Fisk, and P.G. Groffman.  2011.  Calcium and phosphorus interact to reduce mid-growing season net nitrogen mineralization potential in organic horizons in a northern hardwood forest.  Soil Biology and Biochemistry 42: 271-279.

  5. Fisk, M. C., J. H. Sobieraj, T. J. Fahey, A. M. Costello, and T.O. Crist.  2011.  Rhizosphere disturbance influences fungal colonization and community development on dead fine roots.  Plant and Soil 341: 279-293.