Soil Health Institute Selects Seven Scientists, Begins Sampling Phase of North American Project to Evaluate Soil Health Measurements

The project will assess 31 indicators of soil health, partnering with teams from long-term research sites and scientific laboratories across Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

Research Triangle Park, NC (January 22, 2019) - The Soil Health Institute (SHI), the nonprofit organization charged with safeguarding and enhancing soil health, has selected six project scientists and a statistician/database manager to oversee evaluation of soil health indicators at more than 120 long-term agricultural experiment sites across Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The diverse team of scientists will help conduct and manage SHI’s initiative to identify and develop widely acceptable soil health measurements and standards, as well as launch a comprehensive evaluation program that relates soil health to quantified productivity, economic, and environmental outcomes.

“These scientists will work as a geographically-dispersed team to collect soil samples and evaluate the utility of soil health indicators. They will compare soil properties that have been changed by management, climate, production system, and other parameters across North America,” said Paul Tracy, Project Manager, Soil Science/Agronomy.

The scientists will be in charge of regional engagement and project coordination with long-term agricultural site leaders. They will evaluate soil health measurements and their relation to productivity, economic and environmental outcomes; developing critical analysis and review of measurements, soil health evaluation indices and programs at the regional (individual) and North American (team) level, partnering with site leaders and selected scientific laboratories.

G. Mac Bean, Ph.D., will serve as SHI’s project scientist for Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia. He also will lead the team for soil pedology and genesis. Most recently, Bean focused on improving nitrogen fertilizer management as a graduate student at the University of Missouri.

Bean is a member of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, and the International Society of Precision Agriculture. He received his B.S. in Agricultural Science, Systems, and Technology from Brigham Young University-Idaho, his M.S. in Plant Science and his Ph.D. in Soil Science from the University of Missouri.

Shannon Cappellazzi, Ph.D., will serve as project scientist for the western United States. She also will coordinate the soil health team’s pastures and rangeland research. Cappellazzi most recently served as Manager at the Oregon State University Central Analytical Laboratory. Earlier in her career, she was the Equestrian Manager for Wheelbarrow Creek Ranch and an agricultural commodities trader for Wilbur-Ellis Company.

Capellazzi is a member of the Soil Science Society of America and serves as a board member of the Oregon Society of Soil Scientists. She received her B.S. in Animal Science and her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Soil Science from Oregon State University.

Kelsey Hoegenauer, Ph.D., will serve as project scientist for the southern United States. Most recently, Hoegenauer was a graduate research assistant at the University of Arkansas conducting research on recycling nutrients using cover crops in row crop systems. She also has served as a graduate research assistant at Auburn University conducting research on the long- and short-term effects of cover cropping on physical and chemical soil properties in a peanut-cotton rotation. As a Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture (The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation), she conducted research on blackberry management in rangelands.

Hoegenauer is a member of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, and Soil and Water Conservation Society. She received her B.S. in Agronomy from Texas A&M University, M.S. in Plant Science from Auburn University, and Ph.D. in Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences (Soil Fertility emphasis) from the University of Arkansas.

Daniel Liptzin, Ph.D., will serve as project scientist for the High Plains Region, providing team leadership on soil enzymes and carbon cycling. Liptzin recently served as a Senior Instructor at the University of Colorado, Denver, where he taught courses in biogeochemistry, environmental science, and climate. His research interests include exploring human effects on the nitrogen cycle, interactions among elemental cycles, redox-sensitive biogeochemistry, and ecosystem processes in seasonally snow-covered ecosystems.

Liptzin is a member of the American Geophysical Union and an investigator at the Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research Site in Colorado. He received his B.S. from Yale University, MES from the University of Pennsylvania, and Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Charlotte Norris, Ph.D., P.Ag., will serve as project scientist for Canada. Norris has collaborated on research determining best management practices for intensive vegetable production, assessing the effects of agricultural crops on soil health, and evaluating the effects of forest harvesting practices on soil health. This has included investigating indicators of soil health in reclaimed forest ecosystems.

Norris holds a B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Victoria and received her M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Soil Science from the University of Alberta. She is a registered Professional Agrologist.

Elizabeth (Liz) Rieke, Ph.D., will serve as project scientist for the northern Midwest and northeastern United States. She will also lead SHI’s assessment of microbial population dynamics using genomic tools as soil health indicators. Most recently, Rieke served as a postdoctoral research associate, Iowa State University Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering.

Rieke is a member of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. She received her B.S. in Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech, her M.S. in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and her Ph.D. in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering from Iowa State University.

Michael Cope, Ph.D., will serve as the team’s statistician and database manager. Most recently, Cope served as a statistical and research analyst at Clemson University. His expertise includes analysis of large and assorted data. He is skilled in Python Programming, Soil Science, Geographic Information Systems, Ecological Modeling, and Cloud Computing.

Cope received his B.S. in Environmental Studies from Brevard College and his Ph.D. in Forest Resources from Clemson University.

The North American Project to Evaluate Soil Health Measurements is supported through the generosity of grants from The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and General Mills. To learn more about the project, visit https://soilhealthinstitute.org/north-american-project-to-evaluate-soil-health-measurements/. For further information about the Soil Health Institute, visit https://www.soilhealthinstitute.org.


The Soil Health Institute (www.soilhealthinstitute.org) is a non-profit whose mission is to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advancement. The Institute works with its many stakeholders to identify gaps in research and adoption; develop strategies, networks and funding to address those gaps; and ensure beneficial impact of those investments to agriculture, the environment and society.