Since its inception in 2002, the Applied Soil Ecology Lab has employed more than 50 undergraduate summer research students, graduated 13 B.Sc., 19 M.Sc., and 9 Ph.D. students, hosted 6 Visiting Researchers, provided career development opportunities for 7 Research Associates / Post Doctoral Fellowships, and trained 23 technicians in its soil ecology or greenhouse gas research programs.

Many of our past personnel have gone on to further their education and establish successful careers in their field of study, including positions with major agronomic associations and businesses, Manitoba Agriculture, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), as professors / researchers at Canadian or international universities, and proprietors of agronomic businesses / consulting firms.


Applied Soil Ecology Lab technicians and 2019 summer students got along like family – and the field season has barely started! ©Rob Ellis 

PhD Students

Victor Valdez (2020-) is a PhD candidate from Belize investigating use of cover crop systems to lower the carbon to nitrogen ratio before winter deep freeze, which will prospectively decrease emissions of N2O and CO2 during spring thaw. His project consists of studying the relationships between gas emissions, C and N substrates, nitrogen cycling gene expression, and enzymatic kinetics in near above frozen soils. By replacing the labor-intensive soil sampling for C and N with simple field estimates of reverse transcribed soil RNA, the identification of one or a set of target genes (Archaea- and Bacteria-amoA, nrfA, hzo/hao, narG/napA, nirK/S, c/qnorB, nosZ1) as proxies for N loss or retention may offer a vital instrument for advising the dynamics of spring gas emissions and soil N in agriculture. Thesis: Cover Crop Effects on the Dynamics of Nitrogen Cycling in Prairie Soils at Near Above Freezing Temperatures with Contrasting Carbon and Nitrogen Sources

Nazanin Ghavami (2016-) is a PhD candidate investigating Manitoban soybean fields for the presence of the soybean cyst nematode (SCN), Heterodera glycines. Her project continues from surveys conducted from 2012 to 2015 that did not find the nematode. SCN is one of the most devastating disease/pest organisms of soybean worldwide and is found in all major soybean growing regions of the world, including Ontario and Quebec in Canada. It is expected to soon be present in Manitoba as the pest has progressed northward in Minnesota and North Dakota to reach the Manitoba border. Early detection of SCN before it establishes in Manitoba is critical to limit yield losses. Nazanin will also use her research to develop molecular protocols for quantification of SCN calibrated to traditional microscopic counting of eggs to replace the laborious and error-prone extraction/observation that currently exist for SCN quantification and identification. Thesis: Survey and Development of Molecular Soil Test for Soybean Cyst Nematode in Manitoba

MSc Students

M Junaid Afzal (2021-) is an MSc student examining the efficacy of enhanced efficiency / controlled release nitrogen fertilizers to reduce N2O emissions and their effect on the growth and productivity of corn and canola

Claudia Quilesfogel-Esparza (2020-) is an MSc student using canopy sensors to predict nitrogen fertilizer recommendations. She will conduct field experiments in western Manitoba using trials on commercial fields, one year each from 2018 to 2021 using handheld and drone sensors to establish the most economical in-season fertilizer recommendations at early corn stages. Thesis: Improving Nitrogen Recommendations Using Canopy Sensing

Kody Oleson (2019-) is an MSc student studying the influence of 4R nitrogen management practices on indirect emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) through leaching and subsequent denitrification of nitrate (NO3). His research will take place in western Manitoba where soils are light, well-draining, and low in organic matter content, a sharp contrast to the Lab’s usual field sites located in the Red River Valley. Thesis: Effects of 4R Nitrogen Management Practices on Indirect Emissions of Nitrous Oxide through Leaching and Subsequent Denitrification of Nitrate

Undergraduate Students

Leila Cai (Shuqing) (2020-) is an undergraduate thesis student studying the effects of the increasingly popular practice of cover crops on nitrogen oxide emissions from different fertilizer applications in a climate where spring thaw can play a significant role in emissions.


Zhe Song (2021-) is the Applied Soil Ecology’s lead soil and plant chemistry analyst. His responsibilities include processing and analyzing soil and plant samples collected from greenhouse gas emissions field study sites.

Fernanda Gouvea (2020-) is a microbiology technician in the Applied Soil Ecology Lab. Her work focuses on improving our understanding of the life-cycle development, crop host preference, and damage potential of the stem nematode, Ditylenchus weischeri. Fernanda’s research routinely involves microscopic and molecular pathogen identification, pest evaluation, nematode extraction and isolation, culturing, disease rating, and field sampling.

Emma Unruh (2020-) is a a gas analyst in the Applied Soil Ecology Lab. Her responsibilities include analyzing greenhouse gas samples on the Lab’s gas chromatographs and processing the output data.

Claire Heidenreich (2020-) is a general field and laboratory technician in support of greenhouse gas research. Her responsibilities include gas and soil sampling as well as soil sample processing and analysis.

Lanny Gardiner (2017-) is a research agronomist in the Applied Soil Ecology Lab. Lanny engages commercial farmers to obtain access to farmland for field trials. He is responsible for establishing and maintaining field sites (e.g. field site layout, applying pesticides/herbicides), precise application of fertilizer treatments, and seeding/planting and harvesting of field sites.

Marliese Peterson (2015-) is a field and lab research technician in the Applied Soil Ecology Lab. Her responsibilities include assisting graduate students with their collection, processing, and analyses of gas, soil, and biomass samples. She is also responsible for overall coordination of undergraduate summer research student training and field assignments, and managing the Lab’s social media accounts and outreach projects.

Krista Hanis-Gervais (2014-) is a field and lab research technician in the Applied Soil Ecology Laboratory. Her expertise lies in greenhouse gas monitoring using micrometeorology as well as various chamber methods in agricultural and subarctic wetland/peatland systems. She is currently in charge of coordinating all field operations for the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment (NCLE) Long Term Manure & Crop Management Trial at the University of Manitoba Glenlea Research Farm. Her research involves monitoring greenhouse gases from soils receiving synthetic fertilizers, ploughed-down forages, and long term manure applications (CO2, N2O, and CH4), as well as from fresh, stockpiled, and composted manure (CO2, N2O, CH4, NO, NO2 and NH3) as part of the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP).

Terri Fairman (2014-) is a molecular biology technician in the Applied Soil Ecology Lab. Terri maintains the molecular biology lab and conducts molecular diagnostics of soil-borne crop pathogens such as fungi (e.g. Verticillium spp.) and nematodes (e.g. Ditylenchus spp.). She is also responsible for training graduate and summer students in proper molecular biology techniques.

Brad Sparling (2005-) is the Lab’s lead gas analyst and GIS technician. He is responsible for analyzing gas samples collected by graduate students and field technicians, as well as processing the data. Brad also maintains the Lab’s three gas chromatographs and helps coordinate and train undergraduate summer research students in proper field sampling techniques.


Post Doctoral Fellows & Research Associates

Faith Omonijo (2019-2020) (co-supervised by Christine Rawluk, NCLE Research Development & Communications Coordinator, University of Manitoba) Swine Science Cluster project, Advancing the Canadian Swine Sector Through Environmental Footprint Analysis.

Dr. Xiaopeng Gao (2012-2020) Development and Modeling of 4R® Management Strategies to Reduce N2O Emissions from Agricultural Systems. Dr. Gao is now an Assistant Professor in Soil Fertility and Agronomy in the Department of Soil Science at the U of M.

Dr. Kevin Baron (2013-2017) Field Studies of 4R® Nitrogen Management of Wheat and Canola

Dr. Mehrdad Madani (2012-2016) Molecular Diagnostic Development of Plant Parasitic Nematodes

Dr. Haben Asgedom (2009-2012) 4R® Nitrogen Management Studies for Reduction in Emissions of Nitrous Oxide from Soil

Dr. Shabeg Briar (2009-2011) Survey of Plant Parasitic Nematodes of Yellow Pea in Prairie Canada

Dr. Abdel El Hadrami (2007-2009) Green Manures to Reduce Potato Early Dying

PhD Students

Yanyan Li (2019-2020) (visiting PhD candidate from the Chinese Academy of Sciences studying under the supervision of Dr. Xiaopeng Gao) Thesis: Enhanced Efficiency Nitrogen Fertilizers to Reduce N2O Emissions from Irrigated Croplands in Arid Northwestern China

Mingyuan Yin (2018-2020) (visiting PhD candidate from the Chinese Academy of Sciences studying under the supervision of Dr. Xiaopeng Gao) Thesis: Emissions of N2O from Grassland Ecosystem Under Different Grazing Intensities on Kunlun Mountain in Southern Xinjiang, China

Wennong Kuang (2017-2019) (visiting PhD candidate from the Chinese Academy of Sciences studying under the supervision of Dr. Xiaopeng Gao) Thesis: Study on the Mechanism of Water and Fertilizer Management on N2O Production and Emission from Cotton Fields in Arid Regions of Northwest China

Abolfazl Hajihassani (2012-2016) Studies of Plant Host Preferences of the Stem Nematodes Ditylenchus weischeri and D. dipsaci (DOWNLOAD)

Oscar Molina (2011-2016) Identification of Verticillium Species and Control Methods for Verticillium Wilt of Potato in Manitoba (DOWNLOAD)

Ainsley Hamm (2009-2014) Bacterial Community Ecology and Fate in Integrated Livestock Production Systems (DOWNLOAD)

Luca Coppi (2006-2013) Nitrogen and Phosphorus in Soil and Groundwater Following Repeated Nitrogen-based Swine Slurry Applications to a Tame Grassland on Coarse Textured Soil (DOWNLOAD)

Aaron Glenn (2006-2010) Greenhouse Gas Fluxes and Budget for an Annual Cropping System in the Red River Valley, Manitoba, Canada (DOWNLOAD)

Amro Mahran (2005-2009) Suppression of the Root-lesion Nematode Using Liquid Hog Manure (DOWNLOAD)

MSc Students

Priscillar Wenyika (2016-2019) Host Preference for Pratylenchus neglectus Among the Major Crops Grown in the Canadian Prairie Provinces (DOWNLOAD)

Abhishek Agarwal (2016-2018) Study on Verticillium longisporum of Canola from the First Reported Farm in North America (DOWNLOAD)

Matthew Wood (2016-2018) Right Source and Right Time: Reducing Nitrous Oxide Emissions with Enhanced Efficiency Nitrogen Fertilizers (DOWNLOAD)

Fernanda Govea Pereira (2015-2018) Survey of Plant Parasitic Nematodes of Pulse Crop Fields in the Canadian Prairies (DOWNLOAD)

Mick Runzika (2014-2017) Nitrification Rate Effect on Cumulative Nitrous Oxide Emission from Soil (DOWNLOAD)

Megan Westphal (2014-2016) Nitrous Oxide Soil Emissions from an Organic and Conventionally Managed Cropping System in Manitoba (DOWNLOAD)

William Shaw (2014-2016) Placement, Timing, and Source of Nitrogen Fertilizer on Yield of Irrigated Russet Burbank Potato in Manitoba (DOWNLOAD)

Jolene Rutter (2012-2016) Winter Composting of Separated Pig Slurry Solids and Greenhouse Gas Emissions (DOWNLOAD)

Siobhan Maas (2009-2011) Perennial Legume Phase and Annual Crop Rotation Influences on CO2 and N2O Fluxes Over Two Years in the Red River Valley, Manitoba, Canada (DOWNLOAD)

Gwen Donohoe (2009-2011) Nutrient Excretion and Soil Greenhouse Emission from Excreta of Overwintering Beef Cows Fed Forage-based Diets Supplemented with Dries Distillers’ Grains with Solubles (DOWNLOAD)

Krista Hanis-Gervais (2008-2010) Eddy Covariance Measurements of Methane Flux in a Subarctic Fen with Emphasis on Spring-melt Period (DOWNLOAD)

Rhea Lumactud (2008-2010) Spatial Distribution of Soil Nematodes in the Sub-Arctic Environment of Churchill, Manitoba (DOWNLOAD)

Oscar Molina (2007-2009) Effect of Green Manures and Organic Amendments on Verticillium Wilt of Potato in Manitoba (DOWNLOAD)

Nandakumar Rajendran (2007-2009) Dynamics of Profiles of Soil Greenhouse Gases in a Topographically Variable Landscape in Western Canada (DOWNLOAD)

Fardausi Akhtar (2006-2008) Crop Management Impacts On Mycorrhizal Colonization and Cadmium Availability in Agricultural Crops (DOWNLOAD)

Adedeji Dunmola (2005-2007) Greenhouse Gas Emission from a Prairie Pothole Landscape in Western Canada (DOWNLOAD)

Jacqueline Churchill (2005-2007) Spatial Variation of Soil Methane and Nitrous Oxide Emissions in Subarctic Environments of Churchill, Manitoba (DOWNLOAD)

Catherine Welsh (2005-2007) Organic Crop Management Can Decrease Labile Soil P and Promote Mycorrhizal Association of Crops (DOWNLOAD)

Denis Trémorin (2004-2008) Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Grassland Pasture Fertilized with Liquid Hog Manure (DOWNLOAD)

Undergraduate Thesis Students

Colleen Robertson (2019-2020) Soil Properties in Relation to Smooth Brome (Bromus inermis) in Fescue Grasslands at Riding Mountain National Park

Katie Webb (2018-2019) Comparing Greenhouse Gas Production in Stockpiled Cattle Manure

Andrew Hector (2018-2019) Does Increasing Length of Polyculture Deployment Affect Soil Health?

Samuel Steinman (2016-2018) Trends in Agronomic Nutrient Use Efficiency of Major Field Crops in Manitoba

Torrie Eggie (2015-2017) The Reliability of the Rapitest®: Soil Test Kit for Nitrogen and Phosphorus for Garden Soils

Stephanie Dheilly (2013-2015) Soil Nutrient Levels in Vegetable Gardens

Amanda Stefanson (2009-2011) Potential for Winter Composting of Separated Pig Manure Solids in Manitoba

Jolene Rutter (2009-2011) Methane Emissions in Relation of Landscape Position in a Field in the Red River Valley

Lindsey Andronak (2009-2010) Nitrous Oxide and Denitrification Fluxes for a Cropped Field in the Red River Valley, Manitoba

Dale Boswick (2006-2008) Impact of Water Logging on N2O Emissions

Andrea Bacler (2006-2007) Toxicity of Cadmium and Zinc to the Nematode, C. elegans

Siobhan Maas (2005-2007) Nutrient Accumulation in Bare Earth Patches of a Grazed Pasture

Corinne Barker (2006-2007) Sentinel Nematodes of Soil Health

Jody Blazenko (2005-2006) Nutrient Water Quality of a Cow-Calf Operations in Manitoba


Mervin Bilous (2006-2020) Lead soil and plant chemistry analyst.

Amber Aligawesa (2019-2020) soil and plant chemistry technician.

Matt Gervais (2011-2020) TGAS-MAN, micrometeorology, and UAV technician and analyst.

Megan Westphal (2017-2019) National Centre for Livestock and the Environment (NCLE) and Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Program (AGGP) II field and lab technician.

Marissa Robitaille (2016-2017) General field and laboratory technician in support of greenhouse gas research

Natasha Klassen (2014-2017) General field and laboratory technician in support of greenhouse gas research

Ian Copps (2014-2016) General field and laboratory technician in support of greenhouse gas research

Greg Wiebe (2013-2017) General field and laboratory technician in support of greenhouse gas research

Taliah Klippenstein (2015-2017) General field and laboratory technician in support of greenhouse gas research

Liam Kurbis (2014-2015) General field and laboratory technician in support of greenhouse gas research

Ulana Fries (2014-2015) General field and laboratory technician in support of greenhouse gas research

Jehn Francisco (2012-2016) Molecular biology technician; diagnostics of soybean cyst nematode populations from Ontario

Patrick Finnsson (2011-2014) General field and laboratory technician in support of greenhouse gas research

Prasanna Adikari (2011-2013) General field and laboratory technician in support of greenhouse gas research

Jenna Rapai (2008-2011) Micrometeorology technician

Syd Jones (2007-2008) Micrometeorology technician

Trevor Fraser (2007-2008) General field and laboratory technician in support of greenhouse gas research

Oscar Molina (2006-2007) Verticillium and nematology technician

Welcome to the Applied Soil Ecology Lab at the University of Manitoba