Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2021
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
New York University Graduate School of Arts and Science
Soil Frontiers: The Culture and Politics of Soil Microbiology in the Netherlands

What does it mean for scientists to refer to soils as the final frontier of ecological research? Challenging the conception of soil as a lifeless medium for crop production, microbiologists are redefining soils as the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. International teams of scientists in Wageningen, the Netherlands are exploring the structure and function of soil biodiversity to understand how microbial populations govern global carbon and nitrogen cycles. The production of soil microbiomes through genomic and biosensor technologies is reshaping the nature of climate management. Scientific engagements with fungi, protists, bacteria, and archaea are driving the development of novel strategies that utilize soil microbes to sequester atmospheric carbon and control the respiration of greenhouse gases. Named the City of Life Sciences, Wageningen functions as a global epicenter for the production and dissemination of current soil microbiology research. The city comprises an entangled network of scientific research institutions, biotechnology companies, and international soil data centers. Through twelve months of ethnographic research on the scientific practices of soil microbiologists in Wageningen, I will investigate the shifting technoscientific imaginaries of soils and their consequent politics and ethics. My objective is to understand how scientists create new meanings of life with soil microbiomes in the face of global climate change.