About us

SOIL-HEAL is a collaborative research network including researchers across four countries that aims to explore the potential of symbiotic soil fungi called arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi in promoting sustainable agriculture. The focus of our work is on grasslands due to their global importance for agriculture and the delivery of numerous ecosystem services, in addition to the urgent need to address grassland degradation.

Grassland plant species commonly form associations with AM fungi, which can form intricate plant-fungal interaction networks called common mycorrhizal networks (CMNs). To realise the potential of AM fungi for sustainable agriculture, SOIL-HEAL seeks to advance our understanding of these networks and their impact on key ecosystem functions and climate resilience, as well as how management interventions influence the extent and function of CMNs.

The goal of SOIL-HEAL is to translate this new knowledge into sustainable agricultural management practices.


Collaboration is the heartbeat of progress. Working with four universities, we have created a network of researchers as follows:

David Johnson
David is a Professor of Soil Microbial Ecology interested in the interactions between plants and the myriad organisms in soil, how diversity regulates ecosystem processes, and how perturbations related to environmental change affect these interactions.

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Richard Bardgett
Richard provides expertise in the study of plant-soil interactions and their role as drivers of processes of carbon and nitrogen cycling in grassland systems.

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Clare Robinson
Clare is a fungal and soil scientist providing expertise in the decomposition of soil organic matter and its relationship to carbon and nutrient cycling.

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Henry Birt
Henry is a microbial ecologist with a specialised expertise in the use of an array of omics tools, which he applies to understand the relationships between mycorrhizal networks and plant hosts and their application in innovative approaches towards sustainable land management and agricultural practices.

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Kaydee Barker
Kaydee is a soil biogeochemist whose PhD research focuses on the contributions of mycorrhizal fungi and plant host tissues to soil carbon storage, and how humans influence this pathway of climate mitigation through land stewardship.

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Tancredi Caruso
Tancredi is an Associate Professor of Ecology at University College Dublin whose research focuses on the processes that structure microbial and animal biodiversity in space and time. He and his team contribute to SOIL-HEAL with the molecular characterization of AMF assemblages and the modelling of the association between plants and AMF using network models.

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Sobia Ajaz
Sobia is a bioinformatician with expertise in molecular biology and biotechnology whose current work focuses on the extraction, sequencing, and classification of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities from soil, as well as understanding the development of host-mycorrhizal networks.

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Sergi Carrasco Bonet
Sergi is a field and lab ecologist with a focus on the collection and processing of soil and plant samples to characterise the response of plant-soil associations to changes in the environment and in response to extreme event such as intense floods and drought.

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Luisa Lanfranco
Luisa is a Professor in Applied Biology and Biotechnology, studies plant-microbe interactions in soil, focusing on the molecular mechanisms controlling the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis. Within SOIL-HEAL, her team will explore the ability of AM fungi to develop extra-radical mycelium and form common mycorrhizal networks, and to explore how these capabilities may affect host plant growth.

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Andrea Crosino
Andrea has a background in the molecular and cellular aspects of plant-fungus signalling during the pre-symbiotic stages of arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis. He is now applying his molecular expertise to investigate hyphal networks in soil.

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Mara Novero
Since 2005, Mara has specialized in the morphological characterization of arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis, conducting in vitro and in vivo syntheses and analyses via light and transmission electron microscopy. Through SOIL-HEAL, she will focus her attention on devising methodologies for studying the development of extraradical mycelium in soil.

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Matthias C. Rillig
Matthias is an ecology professor at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. His lab uses a wide range of methods to study soil fungi and global change. These include field experiments, highly controlled, mechanistic studies using in vitro systems, and data synthesis with systematic mapping and meta-analysis.

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Anika Lehmann
Anika is an ecologist at Freie Universität Berlin. She has previously conducted experiments and synthesized data to explore the impact of saprobic and mycorrhizal fungi on soil functions and processes, and now applies that knowledge to design and conduct greenhouse experiments to examine the functional significance of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal networks, especially in the context of environmental change.

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