Laurel Brigham

CNI Fellow - Class of 2015

Undergraduate Student, Ecology, Behavior and Evolution
UC San Diego


Carbon Storage Along a Natural Precipitation Gradient Under Shrub and Grass-dominated Communities


Soil carbon pools are an important part of the global carbon cycle. Plant community composition and precipitation can affect soil carbon storage capacity. Changes in land cover can lead to the release of the stored carbon. These land cover alterations lead to the potential for positive feedback; there will likely be an increase in exotic grasslands, which my results indicate have a lower carbon storage capacity, further altering the atmosphere.


The goal of my project is to better understand the importance of precipitation and land cover composition for soil carbon pools. In a changing climate there will likely be an increased shift from shrub-dominated systems to grasslands. If we better understand the link between these carbon pools and their surroundings, then conservation and restoration efforts can be better focused.

Future Plans

I hope to expand this project by examining the soil microbial communities of these soils. I am interested in the size of microbial communities along the precipitation gradient and the interaction between the microbes and the soil carbon pool.


Ellen Esch and Elsa Cleland