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Soil Microbial Ecology

The study of biota that inhabit the soil, their functions, the processes that they mediate, and the effect of their activities on the character of the soil and the growth and health of plant life. Soil microbiology focuses on the soil viruses, bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi and protozoa. Soil microbiology also has tradionally included investigations of the soil animals such as neatods, mites, and other microarthrowpods. Modern soil microbiology represents an integration of microbiology with the conepts of soil science, chemistry, and ecology to understand the functions of microorganisms in the soil environment.

Professor of Soil Microbiology
Dept. of Plants, Soils and Climate
Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-4820

Professional preparation:

BS., 1980. State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Forest Biology. Concentrations in Forest Botany and Pathology and Biochemistry.
Ph.D., 1991. University of California, Berkeley. Soil Science (Soil Microbiology).Dissertation: Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics in the Rhizosphere of Pinus ponderosa seedlings.
Post-doctoral Research Associate, Michigan State Univ. NSF Center for Microbial Ecology 1991-1992

June 2007-present. Professor of Soil Microbiology, Ecology Center Faculty Associate, Adjunct in Biology, Utah State University, Logan, Utah. Research: ecology, genomics and molecular biology of ammonia oxidizing bacteria, microbial carbon and nitrogen cycling, DNA probes for enzymatic functions, microbial / plant interactions in waste management, role of community structure in bioremediation. Teaching: Soil Analytical Techniques, Microbes in Environmental Action, Soil Nutrient Bioavailability, Climate Change and Energy minor.
June 1999-2007.  Associate Professor, Soil Microbiology, Ecology Center Faculty Associate, Adjunct Associate Professor of Biology (2006), Utah State University, Logan, Utah. Teaching: Soil Analytical Techniques, Soil Nutrient Bioavailability. 
January 1993- 1999. Assistant Professor, Soil Microbiology and Program in Molecular Biology, Utah State University, Logan, Utah.
June 1991- December 1992. Research Associate. NSF Center for Microbial Ecology, Michigan State University, East Lansing , Michigan.
August 1992. Workshop Instructor. Environmental Applications of Gene Probe Methodology. NSF Center for Microbial Ecology, East Lansing, Michigan. 
June 1984- April 1991. Research Assistant, Soil Microbiology, University of California, Berkeley.
January 1990 - May 1990. Graduate Student Instructor for Soil Microbiology Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley. 
April 1981- June 1984. Research Support Specialist, Cornell University, NY AES.
Synergistic activities:

Undergraduate Research Mentor: Undergraduate research on genomics and ecology of nitrifying bacteria. Fifteen students mentored and some co-authors. Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year for College of Agriculture at USU. 2003.
Minority Outreach: Advisor to student group Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Sciences (SACNAS), USU Chapter (2005-2009). Attended Minority Environmental Leadership Development Initiative Conference (2005) and SACNAS National Conference w/ students in 2005 and 2008. Mentor Net Advisor.
Resource for Nitrifying Bacteria Cultures and Genomics: Member of collaborative effort with Daniel Arp, Martin Klotz, Bess Ward, David Stahl, Lisa Stein  and others to sequence the genomes of representative nitrifying bacteria. Lead for Nitrosospira multiformis; PI for Nitrosospira briensis, Nitrosomonas cryotolerans CSP 2010, Nitrosomonas spp. AL212& IS-79 CSP 2005 Project. Co-I for NSF RCN for Nitrification. Norton lab maintains and distributes cultures and information on nitrifying bacteria to the scientific community, APHA-AWWA-WEF Standard Methods: Joint Task Group on Nitrifying Bacteria, Steering Committee for Nitrification Network (
Professional Editorial and Review Services: Editorial services for soil microbial ecology focus on nitrogen cycling, functional genes, nitrifying bacteria. S3 Assoc. Ed. for Soil Sci Soc Am J., 2005-2008, Editorial Board of AEM 1999-2004; NSF Panel 1997-2006; USDA Panel Service 2000.
USDA/AFRI Foundational Program Soil Microbial Communities, Functional and Molecular Diversity in Nitrogen Cycle Enzymes under Contrasting Agricultural Management Systems. PI J.M. Norton, Co-PI’s J.R. Reeve, J.M. Stark and M.Y. Habteselassie. 2011-2016
Selected Funded Projects:
USDA/NRI Biology of Weedy and Invasive Species in Agroecosystems, Stability of Weedy Plant Communities in Western Rangelands P.I J.M. Stark and CoPI J.M.Norton. 2007-2011.
National Science Foundation, RCN, Nitrification, a Bacterial Process at the Interface of the Carbon and Nitrogen Cycles. P.I. D.J. Arp CO-P.I.’s W. Hickey, M.G. Klotz, J.M. Norton, B.B. Ward. 2007-2012.
Community Sequencing Program. JGI-DOE. 2010. Genome Sequencing of Nitrosomonas cryotolerans and Nitrosospira briensis, missing pieces for comparative phylogenomics of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria. Co-PI’s M. G. Klotz, B. B. Ward, and L. Y. Stein.
Community Sequencing Program. JGI-DOE. Draft Level Sequencing of Nitrosomonas oligotropha and Isolate IS-79; Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria Adapted for Growth at Low Ammonia. 2005-2006.
BARD Physical processes affecting microbial habitats and activity in unsaturated agricultural soils (D. Or , P.I., S. Friedman Co-PI)) 2002-2005).
USDA - CSRS, Soils and Soil Biology Program. Linking Ammonia Oxidizer Communities to Nitrification Kinetics in Soils Treated with Dairy-Waste. P.I. J.M. Norton, J.M. Stark and B.E. Miller. 1999-2002.
USDA - CSRS, Soils and Soil Biology Program. Molecular Analysis of Ammonia Oxidizer Communities in Contrasting Animal Waste Treatment Systems. P.I. J.M. Norton 1996-1999 (with M.G. Klotz).
National Science Foundation, Ecological and Evolutionary Physiology Program. Collaborative Research: Diversity of Ammonia Monooxygenase Genes from Autotrophic Ammonia-oxidizing Soil Bacteria. P.I J.M. Norton 1996-1998 (collaborative with M.G. Klotz).
Selected Internally Funded Projects:

Community University Research Initiative, Nitrogen Cycling in the Lagoons and Artificial Wetlands Treating the Municipal Wastewater of Logan, UT (2004-2007); Competitive.
Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, Functional Genomics and Ecology of Nitrifying Bacteria (2004-2009), Project operating and salary.


Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year for the College of Agricultural at USU. 2003. Undergraduate research on molecular biology and ecology of nitrifying bacteria.

Professional Associations:

American Society for Microbiology, Soil Science Society of America, International Society for Microbial Ecology, Society for Advancement Chicanos Native Americans in Science.
Graduate Student’s Thesis and Dissertations Directed:

Wei Shi. "Management of Microbial Nitrate Production in Agricultural Soils". Ph.D. Dissertation. Utah State Univ.; 1998. 172p.
J. Javier Alzerreca. "Molecular characterization of soil ammonia oxidizing bacteria based on the genes encoding ammonia monooxygenase." MS Thesis, Utah State Univ., 1999, 151p.
Kistie B. Patch. “Identification and molecular characterization of the bacterial endosymbionts of Adelgidae” MS Thesis Utah State Univ. 2003, 64p. Co-advisor with C. D. von Dohlen.
Teresa Koper. “Functional diversity in autotrophic ammonia oxidizing bacteria from agricultural soils” MS Thesis 2005. Co-advisor with John Stark.
Mussie Y. Habteselassie. “Shifts in ammonia oxidizing bacteria community structure and nitrogen transformations with dairy waste application in an agricultural soil” PhD. Diss, Utah State Univ. 2005. 252p.

Book Chapters (Peer Reviewed):

Norton, J. M., and J. P. Schimel. 2011. Nitrogen mineralization immobilization turnover. In P. M. Huang (ed.), Handbook of Soil Science, Second Edition ed. CRC Press.
Norton, J. M. 2011. Diversity and environmental distribution of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria. In B. B. Ward, M. G. Klotz, and D. J. Arp (eds.), Nitrification. ASM Press, Washington, D.C.
Norton J.M. 2008. Nitrification in Agricultural Soils. in . J.S. Schepers and W. R. Raun (eds) Nitrogen in Agricultural Soils, Agron. Monograph 49. ASA CSSA SSSA, Inc. Madison WI.

Journal Publications Peer Reviewed (last four years):

Campbell, M.A., P.S.G. Chain, H. Dang, A.F. El Sheikh, J.M. Norton, N.L. Ward, B.B. Ward, and M.G. Klotz. 2011. Nitrosococcus watsonii sp. nov., a new species of marine obligate ammonia-oxidizing bacteria that is not omnipresent in the world's oceans: calls to validate the names ‘Nitrosococcus halophilus’ and ‘Nitrosomonas mobilis’. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 76:39-48
Norton, J.M. and J.M. Stark. 2011. Regulation and measurement of nitrification in terrestrial systems. Meth. Enzymol.486:343-362
Koper, T. E., M. Y. Habteselassie, J. M. Stark, and J. M. Norton. 2010. Nitrification exhibits Haldane kinetics in an agricultural soil treated with ammonium sulfate or dairy waste compost. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 74:316-322
Xu, L., Y. Teng, Z. G. Li, J. M. Norton, and Y. M. Luo. 2010. Enhanced removal of PCB from alfalfa rhizosphere soil. Sci. Total Environ. 408:1007-1013
Zaa, C. L. Y., J. E. McLean, R. R. Dupont, J. M. Norton, and D. L. Sorensen. 2010. Dechlorinating and iron reducing bacteria distribution in a TCE-contaminated aquifer. Ground Water Monit. Remediat. 30:46-57
Norton, J. M., M. G. Klotz, L. Y.Stein, D. J. Arp, P. J. Bottomley, et al. 2008. Complete genome sequence of Nitrosospira multiformis, an ammonia-oxidizing bacterium from the soil environment. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 74:3559-3572
Stein, L. Y., D. J. Arp, P. M. Berube, P. S. G. Chain, L. Hauser, M. S. M. Jetten, M. G. Klotz, F. W. Larimer, J. M. Norton, H. J. M. O. d. Camp, M. Shin, and X. Wei. 2007. Whole-genome analysis of the ammonia-oxidizing bacterium, Nitrosomonas eutropha C91: implications for niche adaptation. Environ. Microbiol. 9: 2993-3007
Henry, A., W. Doucette, J. Norton, and B. Bugbee. 2007. Changes in crested wheatgrass root exudation caused by flood, drought, and nutrient stress. J. Environ. Qual. 36:904-912.
Habteselassie, M. Y., J. M. Stark, B. E. Miller, S. G. Thacker and J. M. Norton. 2006. Soil nitrogen and nutrient dynamics after repeated application of treated dairy-waste. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 70:1328-1337
Habteselassie, M. Y., J. M. Stark, B. E. Miller, S. G. Thacker, and J. M. Norton. 2006. Gross nitrogen transformations in an agricultural soil after repeated dairy-waste application. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 70:1338-1348
For any questions, please contact Jeanetee Norton by emailing