ASU microbiologist receives NSF CAREER Award to study greenhouse gases

Associate professor to quantify the role of microbes in Amazon peatlands

November 16, 2018

Hinsby Cadillo-Quiroz, a microbiologist and associate professor with Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences, has received a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for his work in the Amazon.

Cadillo-Quiroz and his international team of researchers are studying the Amazon peatlands from an ecosystem perspective — investigating microbes, tree size and growth, climate and floods, and changes in greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide. More specifically, they are learning about the connections between microorganisms and elements of the Amazonian ecosystems that lead to the consumption and production of methane gas. ASU's Hinsby Cadillo-Quiroz and students Associate professor Hinsby Cadillo-Quiroz (right), along with ASU undergraduate researcher Carlos Courtney (left) and high school student Jesus Fernandes, deploy a soil microbial community manipulation experiment in Quistococha, Iquitos, Peru. Photo: Sandra Leander/ASU School of Life Sciences Download Full Image

“I’m proud to receive this award and pleased that the National Science Foundation recognizes the importance of our work in the Amazon,” said Cadillo-Quiroz. “The Amazon basin has a large area of peatlands that are releasing high levels of methane and we do not understand the microbial contribution to this situation.

“It’s critical that we develop new tools and protocols to better understand these important ecosystems. But we also need to account for the pressure that climate change is having on peatlands and on the organisms that moderate methane cycling. Then we may be able to make better decisions in land management,” he said.

Peatlands are an important part of our world’s ecosystem, as they effectively absorb and store large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Globally, they cover only about 3 percent of the world’s land area but store two times more CO2 than all other land biomass combined. Previous studies on northern peatlands have shown these boggy lands can quickly change from an environment that absorbs greenhouse gases to ones that releases large amounts of CO2 and methane instead.

One of his project’s goals is to create a predictive microbe-inclusive model that researchers can use to better understand methane cycling at local or regional levels in the Amazon. This will be an important tool in managing ecosystems and predicting regional atmospheric conditions.

Additionally, by studying microbes that live both inside and outside of the Amazonian peatlands, Cadillo-Quiroz’s team hopes to show exactly what role microbes play in the absorption or release of greenhouse gases.

Furthermore, to expand the knowledge base and research capacity for the tropics, Cadillo-Quiroz will develop inquiry-based learning modules for undergraduate and graduate education. These modules will have U.S. and international collaborative research components. ASU undergraduate researchers and educators will complete their research activities with partner institutions in countries with Amazonian peatlands. 

“We are working at the cutting-edge of scientific knowledge about the world’s tropics. Building long-term capacity in these regions is as critical as knowledge generation. We are always enthusiastically looking for more partners to study peatlands with us, and to help us make a better world,” said Cadillo-Quiroz.    

The five-year NSF CAREER Award totals more than $650,000. This award is the most prestigious in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as leaders in their respective fields of research. Cadillo-Quiroz received the award earlier this year while an assistant professor at the school.

Sandra Leander

Assistant Director of Media Relations, ASU Knowledge Enterprise


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Breaking down the borderlands through poetry

November 16, 2018

ASU English Professor Natalie Diaz presents visiting poet Eduardo C. Corral in conversation about the vital importance of border issues

In recent years, talk of border security, child separation, caravans of migrants and building — or not building — “the wall” has dominated U.S. headlines. Borders and borderlands, it seems, are at the forefront of America’s collective consciousness.

ASU English Professor and recent MacArthur genius grant recipient Natalie Diaz believes that borders can have many purposes, for better or worse, and that people who live in borderlands aren’t the only ones who need to be thinking about them. 

“Some of the worst abuse of power, people, wildlife, land and water happen in our borderlands — this will ultimately affect all of us,” she said.

In the hopes of starting a much-needed conversation on the topic, Diaz and the civic-minded artistic collaborative program [archi]TEXTS will present “Borderlands Poetry with Eduardo C. Corral” at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19, in the Pima Auditorium of the Memorial Union on ASU’s Tempe campus. 

Felicia Zamora, manager of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing will facilitate the discussion, which benefits No Mas Muertes (No More Deaths), a humanitarian organization based in southern Arizona dedicated to increasing efforts to stop deaths of migrants in the desert. The event will also be livestreamed

Corral, an assistant professor in the master of fine arts program at North Carolina State University, is the author of “Slow Lightning,” a collection of poems that transcends both literal and figurative borders. 

In anticipation of the event, ASU Now spoke with Diaz — whose own work and life has transcended many borders — to get her take on the importance of the topic and her own experiences with it.

Question: Why is the topic of borders and borderlands especially salient at this point in time?

Answer: The borderlands have always been an important place. It is the place of our ancestors and families. It is the land where our languages and stories come from. Borderlands are always the sites of traumas, because the border is something that has been imposed there, with fencing, war, water shortages or water pollution, maquiladoras, brutality toward women and children, racism — and yet from these lands, we are also a vibrant, joyous, beautiful people who are part of the fabric and clay of America today. There is no future of America without the peoples of the borderlands — these people have helped to build and maintain America. Also, imagine what American food might be like without the contributions of the peoples it is always trying to keep outside of its borders!

Q: Why is it a topic everyone, not just those who live near borders or cross them, should care about?

A: America is a country of indigenous or natives, and a country of immigrants. Every one of us is complicit in what happens in this country. We are each responsible in some way for the future we leave for the next generations. America shows its worst self at the borders, although it hides behind words like military might and patriotism. However, those words are disconnected from the bodies of everyone involved. We must treat all living things equally, no matter what side of the border you live on, no matter when your family migrated to America. Some of the worst abuse of power, people, wildlife, land and water happen in our borderlands — this will ultimately affect all of us.

Q: How do you hope Eduardo Corral’s visit to ASU will change the way attendees think about borders and borderlands?

A: My hope for bringing Eduardo here to be in conversation with Felicia Zamora is that we begin to acknowledge a conversation that is necessary and that might not have an immediate solution. These conversations have to start and have to be maintained. This one starting point, to join some of the other conversations that are being started on campus and across our off-campus communities. I don't know that it will change the mind of someone, but I know that it will help to give voice and language to some of our students and faculty and community members who are looking for ways to speak out about their experiences living in the borderlands. 

Q: What kind of borders have you experienced in your life/profession as a writer who is also Latina, indigenous and a woman?

A: The first border I learned and broke was the border of girls and boys — I had a gift for sports, and I was lucky that my parents saw this as a borderless place. I grew up playing with the boys. It was the greatest gift to me. Living on the reservation is always a border, as well as being of mixed race and living on the reservation. I'm not full-blooded. My father's family is from both Spain and Mexico, another complex border. We all have borders we navigate or hurdle or butt up against. Sometimes it's money or class, sometimes it's race or color, sometimes it is about sexuality or gender. The amazing thing to me is that if the border were to come down — be it a wall, or a fence or an imaginary line in your mind — if a bridge were to be built in its place, we could stand next to one another. We'd still have differences and we'd not always agree on things or understand one another, but we'd be able to stand side by side to imagine this world together, to figure out how to save our waterways together, to acknowledge that we are each human and alive and deserve joy and love and family and futures.

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU Now

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