Soil microbial ecologist Kate Scow has been appointed director of the University of California's M. Theo Kearney Foundation of Soil Science for a five-year term beginning July 1. Scow is a professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis.
"I am excited and honored to become the Director of the Kearney Foundation," Scow said, "And, in particular, to be able to guide and support research on carbon dynamics in California's diverse ecosystems." The Kearney Foundation's 2001-2006 mission is "Soil Carbon and California's Terrestrial Ecosystems."
"How carbon flows and where it ends up has enormous global consequences," Scow said. "Scientists and policy-makers are actively debating how, and to what degree, societies can control carbon fluxes and reverse recent trends in climate change."
"Soil is an important source and sink of atmospheric carbon, yet there are serious gaps in our knowledge of the processes involved," Scow explained. "A major goal of the new Kearney mission will be to strengthen the scientific foundation for understanding and predicting carbon fluxes between soils and the atmosphere, as well as carbon sequestration in soil. "
Researchers will examine the effects of water, nutrients, organisms and management on carbon cycling. They will also evaluate the relationship between carbon management policies and environmental quality, agricultural productivity/sustainability, and the economy. The new mission will address issues of scale in measuring and modeling carbon processes; assess the roles soil carbon may play in greenhouse gas emissions; and analyze strategies for mitigating the adverse effects of global climate changes.
"Professor Scow is superbly qualified to lead the new mission of the Kearney Foundation," Associate Vice President Henry J. Vaux Jr. said. "I am delighted that she has agreed to take on these responsibilities, and I look forward to seeing the results of this mission as they begin to emerge a few years hence."
Scow joined the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis in 1989, after earning her Ph.D. and Master degrees in Soil Science from Cornell University and a B.S. in Biology from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She served as chair of the Soil Biology and Biochemistry division of the Soil Science Society of America and last year was elected a Fellow in the society. Scow is an editorial board member of several leading journals, and a member of the National Science Foundation Ecosystems panel.
Her research interests involve biodegradation of organic pollutants in soil and groundwater; kinetics of microbial processes; microbial ecology of organic decomposition in agro-ecosystems; and developing molecular approaches to identify groups of microorganisms involved in carbon flow. Her lab's discovery in 1997 of a unique bacterium (PM1) that is able to biodegrade the gasoline additive MTBE has stimulated MTBE remediation research at several field sites. Scow is also a principal investigator of the Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems Project, a multidisciplinary long-term study that compares conventional, organic, and low-input management systems.
Established in 1951, the M. Theo Kearney Foundation of Soil Science was created to encourage and support research in the fields of soils, plant nutrition and water science within the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Its five-year missions are dedicated to issues of public concern. The 1996-2001 mission, "Soil Quality in the California Environment," focused on assessment and improvement of soil quality while maintaining high productivity.
It is named in honor of Martin Theodore Kearney, a prominent agricultural leader in the history of California's San Joaquin Valley.