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Veronica Acosta-Martinez

Soil Scientist


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Soil Microbiologist and Biochemist 

Cropping Systems Research Laboratory        

Wind Erosion & Water Conservation Unit

veronica.acostamart@ars.usda.gov

3810 4th Street
Lubbock, Tx 79415
Voice: 806-749-5560                                                                       Fax: 806-723-5271

 

Dr. Acosta-Martínez research is focused in obtaining a better understanding of the soil microbial component as affected by the complex interactions of management selections and climate extremes as an indicator of soil health and functions related to biogeochemical cycling, organic matter dynamics and productivity in semi-arid climates. Dr. Acosta-Martinez leads the Soil Biology Group comprised of fifteen ARS scientists within the Greenhouse gas Reduction through Agricultural Carbon Enhancement network (GRACEnet) to provide information of specific organisms - and processes they govern - to select sustainable agricultural practices across the nation. She is part of different efforts to provide a national soil health assessment with the Soil Health Institute and NRCS-Soil Health Division. She is one of 40 collaborators in the Ogallala Water Coordinated Agricultural (OWCAP) interdisciplinary research and outreach project to address issues of water decline and long-​term agricultural sustainability across the Ogallala aquifer region. She is Associate Editor of different scientific journals related to soil ecology, and hold adjunct faculty positions at Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Alabama A&M University, and University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez Campus.

EDUCATION

2000             Ph.D. Iowa State University, Agronomy Department, Major in Soil Science.

1997             M.S. Purdue University, Agronomy Department, Major in Soil Science.            

1994             B.S. University of Puerto Rico, Biology Department, Major in Industrial

                             Microbiology.

ADJUNCT FACULTY POSITIONS

Texas Tech University, Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Plant & Soil Sciences 

Alabama A&M University, Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences 

 

ASSOCIATE EDITOR POSITIONS

Agricultural and Environmental Letters (2017-present)

Soil Biology & Biochemistry (2009-Present)

Agronomy Journal (2007-2013)

Journal of Soil and Water Conservation (2012-Present)

Trevista for Iberoamerican Research (2005-Present)

Applied Soil Ecology (2007-Present)

 

PRESENTATIONS/VIDEOS

"Transitioning to Dryland Cropping Systems"

Soil Health Institute Meeting Oct. 8, 2018

 

MULTI-LOCATION/DISCIPLINARY PROJECTS

Soil management-climate interactions on microbial diversity and functions project (2011-present): Dr. Acosta-Martinez' team has collected soil samples since the 2011 drought from five producer fields that include years of contrasting climatic conditions such as a record precipitation (2015) and another drought (2016). This project has a multidisciplinary team to provide information of essential organisms and the processes they govern in a changing climate. To accomplish this, Dr. Perez-Guzman is analyzing the soil microbial component using fatty-acid methyl esters (FAME) profiles, qPCR and next-generation sequencing (NGS). Additionally, several enzyme activities (EAs) related to biogeochemical cycling and soil organic matter dynamics were evaluated. For qPCR and NGS, we are working with Dr. Lori Phillips, a soil microbiologist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). We are also working with meteorologist Dr. Steven Mauget, to integrate climatic data into a comprehensive framework for analysis of the entire ecosystem.

Evaluating Economic and Soil Health Benefits of Cover Crop and Forages in Dryland Cropping Systems in the Central Great Plains for the Ogallala Aquifer Research Initiative (2019-2020):  Our team will evaluate the long-term soil health changes (>10 years) and economics of integrating cover crops or forage crops in dryland systems.  Our team is led by Dr. Augustine Obour (Soil Scientist) from KSU Ag Research Center-Hays. Other collaborators are Dr. John Holman (Cropping Systems Agronomist, KSU Southwest Research and Extension Center) and Dr. Monty Vandeveer (Agricultural Economist, KSU Southwest Research and Extension Center). I am evaluating the soil microbial indicators of soil health with Dr. Lindsey Slaughter (Assistant Professor of Soil Microbial Ecology/Biochemistry) from Texas Tech University.

Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Projectis a USDA-NIFA research effort (PI, Dr. Meagan Schipanski from Colorado State University) and includes a group of 40 collaborators from 8 universities and our agency (USDA-ARS) across 6 states (2016-2020):  Our goal is to identify and develop viable strategies, practices, and technologies for agricultural producers and rural communities critical to build long-term adaptive management capacity in the Ogallala aquifer. Drs. Acosta-Martínez and Chuck West will provide an assessment of soil health across the Ogallala aquifer to assist in the selection of management practices that effectively save water and our soils.

ARS GRACEnet (Gas Reduction through Agricultural Carbon Enhancement) project (2006-present): The objective of this large, multi-member, and interdisciplinary team is to conduct research and relevant assessments focused on assuring sustainable agricultural activities in the U.S. by accomplishing atmospheric carbon dioxide reduction through agricultural carbon enhancement of soils.

Texas Alliance for Water Conservation Project (2005- present): This multi-institutional and -disciplinary research initiative is funded through the Texas Water Development Board to maximize water conservation in Texas under different cropping and livestock management systems. More than 26 producers participate in this effort. Dr. Acosta-Martinez works with Dr. Chuck West from Texas Tech University to provide information on soil quality/microbial changes as affected by potential alternative water management strategies in the Texas High Plains.

The Ogallala Aquifer Initiative (2003- present): This research consortium between USDA-ARS, Kansas State University, Texas AgriLife Research and Extension, Texas State University and West Texas A&M University to evaluate water management strategies and technologies for maintaining and/or enhancing the economic viability of the agriculture industry and the vitality of the Southern Ogallala Aquifer region.

 

My Team

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Jon Cotton is a research associate responsible for supervising the lab staff during experiments and field work to assist in all phases (data collection and statistical analyses) of experimentation for different projects/collaborations including our multi-location (national) projects.


 

 

  

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Dr. Lumarie Pérez-Guzman is a post-doctoral research associate since September 2018. She obtained her PhD in Ecosystem Science (specialty in Soil Microbiology) from The Ohio State University, in December 2017.  She studied the effects of biochar amendments on microbial diversity and activity in agricultural soils.  Lumarie is a fellow of MicroTrop, a training on tropical microbiology in Senegal, Africa. She is also a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) fellow, where she trained in High-Speed Atomic Force Microscopy and other high-resolution microscopy techniques in Kanazawa University, Japan. In Dr. Acosta-Martinez’ lab, she helped develop a combined assay to simultaneously determine the activity of four enzymes to be used as a biogeochemical index.  Currently, her main project is evaluating soil management-climate interactions on microbial diversity and functions on samples taken after the 2011 drought. 


 

 

 

 

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Dr. Krishna Bhandari works as a post-doctoral researcher in collaboration between the Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University and the USDA-ARS with Drs. Chuck West and Veronica Acosta-Martinez in the area of soil health. Krishna finished his PhD with Dr. Chuck West in August 2018. He has been awarded with 2018 Gerald O. Mott Award for Meritorious Graduate Student in Crop Science by Crop Science Society of America and selected as one of the six 2017 Emerging Scientist Nominee by American Forage and Grassland Council. He was selected as of the twelve 2014 Future Leader Scholars by the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development (AIARD), Washington, DC.  Krishna’s main project is related to the evaluation of the soil health within the Southern High Plains.  He is comparing the soil microbial community size, composition and activities in irrigated cotton systems with counterparts transitioning to dryland into sorghum or grasses for this region.


 

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Sofía Salazar-Millares is a Biological Science Aid studying Chemistry at Texas Tech University and assists in different projects.


 

PAST MEMBERS

Biological Science Technician

Terry Grimard, 2002-2004

 

Post-doctoral Researchers

Dr. Amanda Cano, 2016-2018

Dr. Terrance Gardner, 2010-2012

 

Biological Science Aid

Amanda Metzler, 2014-2016

Jorge Penso, 2014-2016

Kevin Evenson, 2011-2013

Scott Weeks, 2010-2013

Katelyn Mortensen, 2008-2012

Robert Box, 2008-2010

Kayla Hodges, 2008-2010

Megan Moore, 2006-2008

Dana Henderson, 2006-2008

Cassidy Sooter, 2006

Stacy Riker, 2004-2007

Sheena Embry, 2003-2006

Kyle James, 2002-2004

 

GRADUATE STUDENTS

Texas Tech University          

Dr. Lindsey Slaughter, Plant and Soil Science:

Rael Khayeli Otuya, MS. Soil Science, 2019

Meagan Riley, MS. Soil Science, In Progress

Billi Jean Petermann, Ph.D. Soil Science, In Progress

Dr. John Zak, Biological Sciences:

Diana Vargas, Ph.D. Biology, In Progress

Nirmala Dhungana, Ph.D. Biology, 2013

Apolinar Ortiz, M.S. Biology, 2011

Kyle J. Haralson, M.S. Biology, 2010

Heath Grizzle, Ph.D. Biology, 2010

Shashi Kumar, Ph.D. Biology, 2009

Colin Bell, Ph.D. Biology, 2009

Brandon Melester, M.S. Biology, 2009

Dr. Jennifer Moore-Kucera, Plant and Soil Science:

Chenhui Li, Ph.D. Soil Science, 2017

Mamatha Kakarla, Ph.D. Soil Science, 2016

Jon Cotton, M.S. Soil Science, 2012

Marko Davinic, Ph.D. Soil Science, 2010

 Dr. Jaclyn Cañas-Carrell, Environmental Toxicology:

Babina Shrestha, Ph.D. Environmental Toxicology, 2010

University of Puerto Rico

Dr. Elvira Cuevas, Rio Piedras Campus:

Michelle Rivera, Ph.D. Biology, 2018

 Dr. David Sotomayor, Mayagüez Campus:

Ada Vilches Ortega, MS Soil Science, 2018

University of Tennessee

Dr. Neal Eash, Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science:

Lilian Mbuthia, Ph.D. Soil Science, 2015

 Texas A & M University-Kingsville

Dr. David Wester, Animal, Rangeland and Wildlife Sciences:

Joshua Grace, Ph.D. Rangeland and Wildlife, 2017

Mylea Lovell, M.S. Rangeland and Wildlife, 2014

Alabama A & M University

Dr. Zachary Senwo, Biological and Environmental Sciences:

Terrence Gardner, Ph.D. Soil Science, 2010