About Us


We are a biogeochemistry and ecology laboratory at The Evergreen State College. Our larger mission is to promote and support engagement in the science of biogeochemistry and ecology at all levels of training. We focus on projects related to ecosystem carbon (C) cycling and the effects of species and genetic biodiversity on ecosystem function. Our research involves measuring C flux and biodiversity both above- and below-ground. The lab’s current work is divided between riparian cottonwood forests in the intermountain West (US), western Washington prairies, western Washington forests, and disturbed ecosystems near Mount St. Helens. In each of these systems we address questions related to forest carbon cycling, soils, biogeochemistry, plant community ecology, stream ecology, and forest-stream interactions.

2013 NPR piece on our root research linked here: ROOTS

Some active research in the lab:  We are excited about our ongoing work examining genetic effects on ecosystems using Cottonwood forests as a model ecosystems. Our recent work in this area has suggested individual tree genotypes can have unique ecosystem-level effects on forests and streams (in water, carbon, and nitrogen cycling). We are continuing our long-term collaborations with other universities and agencies working on riparian forest restoration and research along the lower Colorado River (AZ) in the Southwestern US. New collaborations with Dr. Connie Harrington and the USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station are allowing us to start thinking about similar work in a new Douglas fir common garden in western Washington. 


Check out the below-ground page for information on our below-ground work! We have been working extensively with touchscreen technology (Rootsnap – CID inc) and tracing a series of images from our temperate rain forest diversity plots and Southwestern Cottonwood forest plots. We are also doing work on belowground C flux, and root excavations to understand root size distributions in forest soils – i.e., where is all that root C stored anyway? We have found some interesting patterns recently where more diverse forest plots also cycle root C faster. We recently more than doubled our network of actively monitored minirhizotrons. Stay tuned root-fans!

 We also continue work on the EEON project in our local forests. Check out the EEON page for more on this work.



We have ongoing collaborations with government agencies and NGO’s examining how prairie soil chemistry and plant communities respond to prescribed-fire exclusion. We just finished a great year of permanent vegetation plot measurement in the South Sound Prairies! This year we have really dug in on work examining the long-term effect of burns on soil C and N content, micronutrient pools,  and C flux. 

Finally, this year we have initiated a series of new projects evaluating plant and soil responses to tephra deposits in old-growth forests and clear-cuts from the 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens! It has been more than 30 years since the eruption  and we are looking at how soils have recovered after this massive disturbance in collaboration with Don Zobel (OSU) and Joe Antos (UBC). Check back for more on this exciting new project 


Check out our publications page for more recent work! You can contact us directly through


fischerd (at) evergreen.edu


leroy (at) evergreen.edu


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A biogeochemistry and ecology research labratory at The Evergreen State College