Dr. Asmeret Asefaw Berhe
Berhe with her graduate students Rebecca, Kimber and Lixia at the UC Merced Vernal Pools Reserve
above: Berhe sampling a muddy pit in the Marin Headlands, near Golden Gate Bridge Marin County, CA
right: Berhe with grad student Rebecca and Undergrad student Laura at the Kings River Experimental Watershed, Southern Sierra Nevada
Education & Experience
2014 to present: Associate Professor, Soil Biogeochemistry, UC Merced
2009 – 2014: Assistant Professor, Soil Biogeochemistry, UC Merced
2006-2008: President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis & Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, UC Berkeley
2006: Ph.D. Biogeochemistry, University of California, Berkeley
2000: M.Sc. Political Ecology, Michigan State University
1996: B.Sc. Soil & Water Conservation, University of Asmara (Eritrea)
My research interest focuses on biogeochemical cycling of essential elements (esp. carbon and nitrogen) in the soil system. Specifically in my research group we study how the soil system regulates our atmosphere system by conducting mechanistic studies that help us improve our understanding of how physical perturbations in the environment (ex. erosion, fire, changes in climate) affects stability and mechanisms of stabilization of soil organic matter.
How I became a scientist
Growing up, I always loved reading and learning about science. I got particularly fascinated with soil science and studies of nature overall after taking an introduction to soil science course as an undergraduate. I realized that there is a whole world under my foot, that plays key role in functioning of the earth system. The more I learned about soils, the more I was hooked, it was fascinating to learn about the diversity of life and essential life processes that the soil system hosts and controls. In my work, I try to figure out how the climate system and anticipated changes in climate are mediated by soil processes. I also spend time thinking about the socio-economic and political aspects of the relationship of human beings with the soil system – how does soil affect human security? And how human actions affect physical, chemical, and biological processes in soil. Learning about soils never fails to deepen my appreciation of the complexity and grandeur of the earth system, and the role that we/human beings play in it.
How my work benefits society
My research aims to understand and quantify the effect of different physical changes in the environment on carbon storage in soil and release of green house gases to the atmosphere.