All the Small Things: Nurturing Food Webs of Degraded Soils

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 9-18-2019


Most agricultural land is considered degraded. Much of the degradation is due to neglect of soil health. Recent advances in DNA sequencing and other molecular biology techniques are allowing for accurate descriptions of soil microbiomes and insights into beneficial plant-microbe interactions, respectively. An overview of microbiome research (both human microbiome and soil microbiome) will be followed with a discussion of agricultural approaches designed to nurture soil back to health. The talk will end with a discussion about newlydeveloped curriculum that emphasizes biological principles starting with a foundation built on assessing soil health in Dr. Graff’s freshman-level biology laboratory courses.

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Dr. Graff has been an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Montana Technological University since January 2016. The courses he teaches include biotechnology, evolution, immunology, virology and some general biology courses with labs. His research interests include host-pathogen interactions and antiviral innate immunity. Over 20 undergraduate students have learned molecular biology techniques in the Graff Lab. Over 200 undergraduate students have learned bacteriophage hunting in Dr. Graff’s laboratory courses. Now, a novel laboratory course curriculum is being developed where Dr. Graff’s students are learning the Biology of Indoor Organismal and Microbial Ecosystem Sustainability (BIOMES). Relevant to the seminar topic, Joel’s first real job was working as a hired hand on his father’s ranch in southeast Montana.