National Science Foundation Grant work - Dr. Zsuzsanna Balogh-Brunstad, Kyle Greenberg '13 and Sheila Niedziela '13

Hartwick Receives Grant from the National Science Foundation

December 14, 2012

Hartwick College received a grant from the National Science Foundation in the amount of $37,348 to fund the project: "ETBC Collaborative Research: Weathering Under Cover: Role of biofilms in mineral weathering and nutrient uptake in the mycorrhizosphere."

The collaborative  research project, which began in 2010 and will last through the end of 2012, has been directed by Dr. Zsuzsanna Balogh-Brunstad, assistant professor in the departments of Chemistry and Geology and Environmental Sciences at Hartwick College, in collaboration with Dr. C Kent Keller at Washington State University.

Dr. Zsuzsanna Balogh-Brunstad, Kyle Greenberg '13 and Sheila Niedziela '13

Hartwick students Kyle Greenberg '13 and Sheila Niedziela '13 worked with Balogh-Brunstad, collaborators at Washington State University and at the Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. To date, Greenberg and Niedziela have presented their ongoing results at several national and international conferences.

The overall goals of the project are to determine the role and significance of rhizospheric biofilms in chemical weathering and chemical denudation processes, to identify and describe the mechanisms at the biofilm-mineral interface, and to quantify the contribution of biofilm governed weathering to the total weathering budget. One particular focus is to determine biofilm properties at the biofilm-microbe-mineral interface using new and combined electron microscopy techniques, such as cryo-scanning electron microscopy, focused ion beam techniques combined with transmission electron microscopy, and energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy to determine chemical characteristics.

National Science Foundation Grant work - Dr. Zsuzsanna Balogh-Brunstad, Kyle Greenberg '13 and Sheila Niedziela '13

Those involved in the project hypothesized that under limiting Ca and K conditions a) thick biofilm cover develops to protect the mineral-fungus-bacteria interface and facilitate direct cation uptake from the minerals; and b) chemical weathering rates increase and distinct depletion profiles of elements form under the interface in the minerals. However, as Ca and K are made increasingly available in the input solutions, biofilm becomes thinner, patchy and less developed, and mineral weathering rates decrease.

As the group continues to analyze the data collected to date, there have been no conclusions drawn thus far. Looking ahead, the research team looks forward to compiling results based on their findings and presenting them at other conferences and meetings in the future.

For additional information, contact Balogh-Brunstad at 607-431-4734 or at

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Hartwick College is a private liberal arts and sciences college of 1,500 students, located in Oneonta, NY, in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Hartwick's expansive curriculum emphasizes a uniquely experiential approach to the liberal arts. Through personalized teaching, collaborative research, a unique January Term, a wide range of internships, and vast study-abroad opportunities, Hartwick ensures that students are prepared for the world ahead. A Three-Year Bachelor's Degree Program and strong financial aid and scholarship offerings keep a Hartwick education affordable.

Contact: Valerie Capullo
Phone: 607-431-4031