Controlled Environment Agriculture Center

Research, Instruction & Extension for Producing Crops
With Sustainability, Efficiency & Eco-Friendliness
Friday, February 26, 2016 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm

Covering Environments--The CEAC Monthly Seminars

CRACKING THE CODE OF SOIL GENESIS: HOW ROCKS BECOME LIFE

February 26, 2016 @ 4:00pm

Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, 1951 Roger Rd

Dragos Zaharescu, PhD Research Fellow Biosphere 2, UofA

You toss some seeds on the ground, the rains come and soon seedlings sprout out of the soil. This 'miracle' of plant life has taken place since humans began the practice of agriculture. But, have you ever wondered: 'where did the soil come from'? Geologists will tell you that 'in the beginning' there were rocks, but have you ever tried to grow a plant on a rock?

Now comes Dragos Zaharescu who established, at the University of Arizona's Biosphere 2, a unique laboratory designed to determine how rocks become soil which then is capable of becoming a prolific supporter of plant life. With funding from the National Science Foundation, and in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team from Soil, Water & Environmental Science (SWES) and Biosphere 2, the Rockubator was born. As the name suggests, it is an incubator for rocks which are subjected to various treatments with the final outcome being their transformation to soil. The objective of this study is to learn how plants (with the assistance of bacteria and fungi) transform rocky terrains into a living ecosystem*.

Zaharescu is truly an interdisciplinary and exuberant scientist. He describes his research as sitting "at the interface between biology, ecology, geochemistry and climate science". When asked, he shares his approach to research as relying on multiple disciplines but focusing on one vision: "I use observational and lab based approaches, from large-scale surveys to setting mezocosm-scale life support systems. I continuously improve and cross-pollinate methods and concepts from different fields including geochemistry, microbiology, anatomy, plant and animal physiological ecology, landscape ecology, limnology, climate science, and material sciences".  

*adopted from a Scientific American (2012) blog by Susan Swanberg

Biosphere 2 Dragos Zaharescu shows a Biosphere 2 greenhouse to Sean Fleming, one of Carols Schwalbe's science journalism students at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz. Dragos Zaharescu explains his system for growing ponderosa pine seedlings in a ground rock medium on Oct. 5, 2012

An informal networking and get acquainted session will start about 4pm. refreshments will be served.

Our seminars are also available via webcast. To register, click the link below:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/52135911515542529 After registering, you will receive

a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.