Crowther Lab Research

Plants and soil organisms are responsible for driving biogeochemical processes that regulate soil fertility, ecosystem productivity and the climate. The diverse network of interactions between those species is necessary build resilient and sustainable ecosystems. Our overall research aims to understand how these biological communities are structured, and how they vary across the globe. But we also aim to understand the functional relevance of those communities, so that we can help to predict how soil fertility and carbon storage might respond to ongoing climate change.

To do this, we use a wide range of ecological approaches to try to understand the distribution and functioning of these biological communities around the globe. This research includes (i)  theoretical mathematical models that aim to identify key mechanisms that structure biological communities, (ii) experimental studies in the lab and field to test the existence of those ecological mechanisms, (iii) observational studies that aim to identify the presence – and relative importance of – those processes in natural ecosystems, and (iv) global modeling efforts to interpolate and project ecological dynamics across the globe to understand their consequences for global biogeochemical cycling.

All of this means that, at any point in time, there will be someone doing experiments with soil microbes in petri-dishes, someone else in the field measuring leaf photosynthesis, and at the computer trying to identify what those results mean for the global climate. Of course, that is when we are not playing the smashing game or frizball.

Research interests

Fundamental ecology

We study the basic ecological forces structuring the diversity of organisms through time and space. This draws heavily on mathematical theory and experimental studies with soil microorganisms and plants, as we try to identify unifying trends underpinning the structure and function of natural communities.

Global ecology

We study how ecological processes propagate across Earth’s ecosystems. This draws heavily on big data approaches, machine learning and computer science to try to identify innovative ways to understand and quantify global ecological processes.

Understanding climate change

We study and explore the ecological feedback loops regulating climate change. Changes in the physiology and composition of organisms across the globe can enhance, or suppress, the rate of climate change. Statistical and mechanistic modelling approaches help us to understand these processes so that we can better predict the rate of climate change into the future.

Addressing climate change

We aim to apply our fundamental understanding of ecological systems to try to guide ecosystem management efforts to promote global biodiversity. Using observational and experimental studies, we explore a range of land management approaches (including conservation, agroforestry and holistic soil management) to promote biodiversity, carbon storage and human wellbeing around the world.

Conferences & Scientific Presentations

Scientific Publications

From fundamental ecology to addressing climate change and biodiversity loss – our scientific approach takes on an ecologically informed understanding of Earth system dynamics. Our scientific publications are available here.