The University of Arizona

Plant-microbe-mineral interaction as a driver for rock weathering and chemical denudation


The role of biological weathering in the transformation of the Eearth’s near surface is of great interest in the biogeosciences. We do not fully understand how plants, bacteria, and fungi (particularly mycorrhizal fungi) interact with abiotic forcings to promote the weathering of primary minerals and the incipient formation of soil. In this project we measure how plant–microbe interactions affect the initial weathering of four distinct rock types (basalt, granite, schist, and rhyolite) and the extent to which this weathering results in chemical denudation versus biomass accumulation or re-precipitation of dissolution products. Two types of higher plants are being used in a replicated plant-microbe-rock environment: a grass species (with vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizal association) and a tree species (with ectomycorrhizal association). The experiments also include plant-free (but microbially-colonized) and abiotic controls.

This project is funded by the NSF Geobiology and Low-Temperature Geochemistry grant #1023215.

You can follow project progress on twitter at!/B2_geobiology



         Katerina Dontsova
         Jon Chorover
         Raina Maier
         Travis Huxman

Postdoctoral researchers

         Dragos G. Zaharescu

           Leads experimental design and implementation and bridges the gap between the different disciplines involved. 


         Carmen I. Burghelea

            Of wide experience in ecology, stress indicators and biogeochemistry, Carmen has been instrumental in all project steps since she joined in 2012. 



Undergraduate researchers

Jennifer Presler

Jennifer is a 4th year Biology student at the University of Arizona with strong interests in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She joined Biosphere-2 Geobiology project as a NSF funded summer intern in 2012. Jennifer's fine skills have been essential in the multiple threads of this project ever since. She is passionate for science and swimming and enjoys the company of kittens.


Claudia Quilesfogel-Esparza


Nicolas Sertillanges


Shana Sandhaus


Elise Munoz


Past research interns

Miranda Galey

2013 NSF-REU summer intern

Emily Lily Gaddis

2013 NSF-REU summer intern


        Andrew Toriello

A Nutritional Science graduate at the University of Arizona, Andrew has joined our project as a research assistant in March 2012. His effort in the rock lab was crucial in setting up a clean experiment.




Vanessa Yubeta

Vanessa, a Pima College student with strong interests in teaching Biology has been involved in this project during 2011. Her skills on rock crusher and other rock processing steps have been essential. She likes to travel and she runs her own cup cake business.

James Omlid

James also is employed at Biophere 2 as an Interpretive Specialist. His educational background includes a Bachelor's Degree in Earth Science from Iowa State University. James has also worked on two other research projects at Biosphere 2: the Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO) and the Desert Green Roofs project.  James has taken numerous courses in geology and loves rock collecting. He also enjoys meteorology, photography as well as all aspects of nature.

Arturo Jacobo


Mathew Clark

Matt is a second year Geography student at the university of Arizona. He was involved in the initial phases of this project which included grinding and removing weathered surface of different rock types. Matt is interested in rock formation, travel and experiencing different cultures.


  Guillermo Molano


  Lauren Guthridge

Currently working at Arizona Laboratory for Emerging Contaminants while pursuing a master in oboe performance at the University of Arizona, Lauren has been part of our team in 2011. She has been centerpiece in the initial stages of rock processing when different procedure were used to remove weathered surfaces and reduce core material to smaller grain size. She garduated with a music major and chemistry minor at UofA. Hobbies include horse back riding, hiking/climbing, and traveling.

  Jake Kelly

Among the first research assistants to work with us, Jake has been involved in the development and testing  of different rock processing procedure and tools besides dealing with significant part of this work. Jake has since landed a tour guide job at Biosphere-2. His passion has always been related to public interaction. He now uses his research experience to engage the general public into the science and activity behind this project.