Lithium Battery Catalyst Found to Harm Key Soil Microorganism


The material at the heart of the lithium ion batteries that power electric vehicles, laptop computers and smartphones has been shown to impair a key soil bacterium, according to new research published online in the ACS journal Chemistry of Materials. The study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin (UW) – Madison and the University of Minnesota is an early signal that the growing use of the new nanoscale materials used in the rechargeable batteries that power portable electronics and electric and hybrid vehicles warrant evaluation for their potential environmental consequences. The research team led by UW-Madison chemistry Professor Robert J. Hamers explored the effects of the emerging battery cathode material nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) on the common soil and sediment bacterium Shewanella oneidensis. “As far as we know, this is the first study that’s looked at the environmental impact of these materials,” says Hamers, who collaborated with the laboratories of University of Minnesota chemist Christy Haynes and UW-Madison soil scientist Joel Pedersen to perform the new work.

See for the full article.

New Models to Study Nanoparticle Interaction with Cell Membranes

CoverIssueAn article by Melby et al. will soon be featured in the journal Environmental Science Nano. The paper focuses on the development of models for cell surfaces for the purpose of studying how engineered nanoparticles interact with organisms. The authors show that by incorporating domains differing in fluidity in model cell membranes (lipid bilayers), the attachment of positively charged nanoparticles is increased over the case where such domains are absent. The lead author is Eric Melby (Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Chemistry and Technology in Joel Pedersen’s group; M.S., Soil Science, 2010 under Doug Soldat). A lay description of the study can be found on their blog site:

Excellence in Science Nomination for Jenna Grauer-Gray


Jenna Grauer-Gray, a MS Student of Alfred Hartemink, has been nominated by Dean VandenBosch for participation in the AAAS/Science Program for Excellence in Science. This program rewards deserving graduate students, medical students, and postdocs working in the life sciences with a three-year sponsored membership in AAAS/Science.

AAAS is the world’s largest multidisciplinary science organization, with nearly 130,000 members and subscribers. Its mission is to work toward sound science policy, improved science education, greater international cooperation, and increased public interest in scientific discovery.

Thea Whitman in Nature Communications!

Whitman2Our new soil ecologist just published a paper in Nature Communications, entitled “A dual-isotope approach to allow conclusive partitioning between three sources.” The paper describes a new technique to separate one biogeochemical pool (e.g., total soil CO2 emissions) into its three different sources (e.g., roots, soil organic carbon, and plant litter). The approach uses just two stable isotopes, expanding the range of possible questions and making it a powerful tool to help advance our understanding of element cycling in complex systems. Go to


<> for the full article or contact


325 Field Trip

_DSC6917 (2)As part of the Soil Science 325 course, a group Antigo silt loam state soilof soil science students went on a three-day field trip and visited the Antigo silt loam – the State Soil of Wisconsin! The Antigo silt loam was selected to represent the more than 550 different soils in Wisconsin thanks in no small part to the efforts of Francis Hole. The field trip was supported by the FD Hole Endowment.   {L to R, bottom to top:  Kavya Krishnan, Jacob Kruse, Luis Reyes Rojas, Nicholas Galleguillos Katz, Jenifer Yost, Kyle Kazmierczak, Galen Bergquist, David Ritter, Elizabeth McNamee, Professor Alfred Hartemink, Kristin Witkowski}.

Recent Publications from the Hickey Lab


The Hickey Lab announces two recent publications:  Relations of microbiome characteristics to edaphic properties of tropical soils from Trinidad,” Frontiers Microbiology:


“Complete genome sequence of the phenanthrene-degrading soil bacterium Delftia acidovorans Cs1-4,” Standards in Genomic Science:

Joel Pedersen Part of $20 Million NSF Grant

Pedersen photo 20150213 v3Department faculty member, Joel Pedersen [], is part of the leadership team for a new 5-year, $20 million multi-institutional grant from the National Science Foundation, the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology [go to for UW-Mad news story]. Joel’s contributions will focus on impacts of nanomaterials living things. His group will explore the fates and transport of nanoparticles in the environment, and how they interact with membranes of living organisms. Congratulations to Joel and the rest of the UW-Madison team on this tremendous achievement!

Announcing the Jackson-Tanner Commons Project

Soil-King Observatory DriveThe Jackson-Tanner Commons Project is an effort by the Department of Soil Science to provide a new academic workspace where students, staff, and faculty members can interact informally in a relaxed and pleasing environment. Named after our first two faculty members to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences, Marion Jackson and Champ Tanner, the Jackson-Tanner Commons will be housed in Room 360 of the Soils Building. For more information or to donate to the effort, please see the Jackson-Tanner Commons webpage under Alumni & Friends.

Profiles Newsletter Published

The latest edition of Profiles, the official newsletter of the Department of Soil Science, has been published. Check it out on our Alumni and Friends page.

If you are an alumni and did not receive it in the mail, please update your information with the Wisconsin Alumni Association. As always, we love to hear about how our alumni are doing. Drop us a note using the form on the newsletter or via e-mail to

Professor Emeritus Art Peterson Remembered

Art_Peterson_Faculty1992The Department of Soil Science is saddened to announce that on Monday, January 26, 2015, Professor Emeritus Art Peterson passed away at the age of 91. Art’s boundless energy led to an amazing list of accomplishments. He was a frequent visitor to department events and his presence will be greatly missed.

Funeral services will be held at Bethel Lutheran Church, 312 Wisconsin Ave, Madison on Saturday, January 31, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. Visitation will be held at the church on Saturday, from 9:00 a.m. until the time of service. Donations may be made in Art’s name to West Madison Little League or TV Media Ministry of Bethel Lutheran Church. For more on the life and accomplishments of Art or to leave a memory, please see his obituary at Cress Funeral Services.