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Daniel Smith

School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Daniel Smith portrait.

Research Frontiers

Faculty Mentor
Brian Badgley
Associate Professor of Environmental Microbiology 

Research Focus
My dissertation work has shown that amending soil with readily available organic carbon (e.g., grass clippings) increases soil resistance to erosion by increasing the production of extracellular polymeric substances, which are “sticky” organic polymers produced by microorganisms. However, questions remain about the underlying mechanisms driving extracellular polymeric substances production, erosion reduction, and how long this benefit will last. Therefore, my proposed project will study how different types of organic material (e.g., grass clippings, wood chips, etc.) and specific microorganisms like Pleurotus ostreatus (a type of fungus] influence:

  1. microbial community composition
  2. extracellular polymeric substances production and composition
  3. soil resistance to erosion by water over time

Answering these questions will improve our short-term (days to months) understanding of how the soil microbiome utilizes organic matter to produce extracellular polymeric substances and subsequently impact the surrounding environment. Additionally, this project will underscore the benefits of stimulating microorganisms for quick erosion control, which is broadly applicable to challenges such as ecosystem restoration, coastal resilience, and soil stabilization in agricultural areas or during construction activities.

Why did you choose to pursue postdoctoral training at Virginia Tech?
I completed my dissertation work in the biological systems engineering department at Virginia Tech. I enjoyed my work, environment, and colleagues throughout my graduate experience. Staying at Virginia Tech gives me the opportunity to grow into a new role with increased responsibilities and opportunities while still meeting the needs of my family.

What are you most looking forward to as you begin in this fellowship at Virginia Tech?
I’m looking forward to mentoring undergraduate and graduate students on campus and helping them succeed in their research projects.