Position: Postdoctoral research fellow, AgResearch Lincoln, funded through the NZAGRC.
Field: Soil ecology
Dr Nicole Schon is a postdoctoral fellow with the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC). Her research focuses on the role of earthworms in carbon incorporation in soil.
As part of her work, Nicole spends a lot of time outdoors, getting messy with worms and soil at farm sites all over New Zealand. This suits her nicely! Nicole grew up on a dairy farm in the Waikato and has always enjoyed being on farms and in the outdoors.
After she finished school, Nicole decided on a double major in biology and earth sciences for her BSc at Massey University. She enjoyed both of these subject areas, and a project exploring the influence of fertiliser and stocking rates on soil biology captured her interest for her honours project. Nicole continued with this theme for her PhD in ecology at Massey University. She looked at how the soil biology is influenced by farm management practices and how this related to the services these organisms provide, such as nutrient cycling, organic matter incorporation and the creation of soil pores.
Don’t treat the soil like dirt!
Nicole still spends time each month at AgResearch Palmerston North, keeping an eye on her projects there, but she is now based at AgResearch Lincoln. Nicole’s research currently focuses on looking at the amount of carbon that may be incorporated and stored by deep-burrowing earthworms, with the potential of introducing these earthworms to pastures where they are absent in order to improve carbon content. Nicole really enjoys the variety her job offers, from practical fieldwork to writing journal articles and presenting at conferences. She particularly enjoys the challenge of trying to understand the complexities of the soil ecosystem via a range of different methods, including bucket trials and large-scale field research projects.
Eco system engineers: article and interview from RNZ about Nicole's work with worms.
This article is based on information current in 2012 and updated in 2018.