Research Area(s)

  • Soil biology
  • Protist diversity and systematics
  • Soil micro-invertebrates
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Food webs
  • Community structure
  • Microbial ecology


Soil Science

Research Interests

Recent work included following nutrient paths through soil food webs using the stable isotopes 15N and 13C. We have recently worked on a variety of other aspects of soil ecology and field management. These include long term effects of field management on soil biology and nutrients; and soil amendments (composted municipal solid waste, manure, biosolids, biochar); organic agriculture and no-tillage.  We have worked with a variety of soil samples from the sub-arctic, to grasslands, desert crusts, temperate to tropical forests, agricultural fields, and with micro-fossils in amber. We rely on sampling commercial agricultural fields and forest plantations, experimental field sites, greenhouse seedling experiments, and microcosms.

I am a past-president of the International Society for Protistology (2010-2013). I am editor-in-chief of the Elsevier journal “Rhizosphere”.

Ongoing and new research projects include the following:

Rhizosphere ecology and soil nutrient availability to roots. We are continuing our rhizosphere food web manipulations to look for effects on specific nutrient uptake by roots. We use Arabidopsis mutants, wheat and canola commercial varieties in controlled laboratory studies for spectroscopic and genomic analysis.

Root-soil nutrient uptake and exudate release. We obtained funds for a new Phyto-PET scanner at the cyclotron to follow 11N into plants and out of roots into soil. These studies will be extended to other metabolites and nutrients.

No-tillage agriculture nitrogen fixation. After several decades of no-tillage agriculture, has free-living nitrogen fixation returned to our agricultural soils? We use identified commercial fields for in-lab 15N tracer studies and genomic assay of bacteria functional communities.

Scaling-up pulse innovations for food and nutrition security in southern Ethiopia. Since 1997 this project has continued to grow in scope and impact through a continuous turnover of researchers. The project provides a second annual crop of modern locally developed legume varieties, to improve household income and nutrition. At this stage we are transferring our project to the regional government authorities to expand our farm outreach and education; and our nutrition outreach and education to mothers and woman-led households.

Designing crops for Global Food Security. This is a large interdisciplinary project that aims to rejuvenate and modernise research in crop development [  ]. It is held and managed through the Global Institute for Food Security [ ].

Selected Recent Publications

E. Richardson, G. Walker, G. MacIntyre, S. Quideau, J.B. Dacks, and S. Adl. 2014. Next-generation sequencing of protists as a measure of natural soil microbial eukaryotic community in the oil sands region. OSRIN, Alberta. Project report.

Felicity V. Crotty, Sina M. Adl, Rod P. Blackshaw, Richard Inger, and Philip Murray. 2014. Divergence of feeding channels within the soil food web determined by ecosystem type. Ecology and Evolution, 4(1) 1-13.

Adl, M.S., Habura, A., Eglit, Y. 2014. Review: Amplification primers of SSU rDNA for soil protists. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 69: 328-342.

E. Thebault, Pizl, S. Adl, T. Cajthaml, P. Baldrian, L. Hanel, J. Stary, K. Tajovsky, J. Materna, A. Novakova, P. deRuiter, J. Frouz. 2014. Soil food web changes during spontaneous succession at post mining sites: a possible ecosystem engineering effect on food web organization? Plos ONE 8(11):e79694, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079694.

Johanna E. Nesbitt and Sina M. Adl. 2014. Differences in soil quality indicators between organic and conventional potato fields in Eastern Canada. Ecological Indicators 37:119-130.

F. Crotty, M. Stocki, D. J. Knight, S. Adl. 2013. Improving accuracy and sensitivity of isotope ratio mass spectrometry for δ13C and δ15N values in very low mass samples for ecological studies. Soil Biology Biochemistry, 65: 75-77.

Adl, S.M. 2013. Algal taxonomy: ready to play. Journal of Phycology 49:226-228.

Crotty, F.V. Adl, S.M., Blackshaw, R.P., and Murray J.P. 2013. Measuring soil protist respiration and ingestion rates using stable isotopes. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 57:919-921.

Pawlowski J, Adl S, Audic S, Bass D, Belbahri L, Berney C, Bowser SS, Cepicka I, Decelle J, Dunthorn M, Fiore-Donno AM, Gile GH, Holzmann M, Jahn R, Jirků M, Keeling P, Kostka M, Kudryavtsev A, Lara E, Lukeš J, Mann DG, Mitchell EAD, Nitsche F, Romeralo M, Saunders GW, Simpson AGB, Smirnov AV, Spouge J, Stern RF, Stoeck T, Zimmermann J, Schindel D, de Vargas C. 2012. CBOL Protist Working Group: Barcoding eukaryotic richness beyond the animal, plant and fungal kingdoms. PloS Biology 10(11): e1001419. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001419.

V. Girard and S. Adl. 2012. Preservation of microorganisms in modern resin: an actuotaphonomic study. Protistology 7(2): 90-96.

Maqbool, R., Percival, D.C., Adl, M. S., Zaman, Q. U., and Buszard, D. 2012. In situ estimation of foliar nitrogen in wild blueberry using reflectance spectra. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 92: doi:10.4141/CJPS2011-203 .

Sina M. Adl, Alastair. G. B. Simpson, Christopher E. Lane, Julius Lukes, David Bass, Samuel S. Bowser, Matthew W. Brown, Fabien Burki, Micah Dunthorn, Vladimir Hampl, Aaron Heiss, Mona Hoppenrath, Enrique Lara, Line leGall, Denis H. Lynn, Hilary McManus, Edward A. D. Mitchell, Sharon E. Mozley-Stanridge, Laura Wegener Parfrey, Jan Pawloski, Sonja Rueckert, Laura Shadwick, Conrad Schoch, Alexey Smirnov, Frederick W. Spiegel. 2012. The revised classification of eukaryotes. Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology 59(5):429-493.

McElroy M., Papadopoulos Y. and Adl M.S. 2012. Short term plant species composition effect on soil functional diversity in naturalised pastures. Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 92(4):687-697.

Crotty, F.V. Adl, S.M., Blackshaw, R.P., and Murray J.P. 2012. Using stable isotopes to differentiate trophic feeding channels within soil food webs. Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology 59(6):520-526.

Crotty, F.V. Adl, S.M., Blackshaw, R.P., and Murray J.P. 2011. Protozoan pulses unveil their pivotal position within the soil food web. Microbial Ecology 63(4):905-918.

Camilo Mora, Derek P. Tittensor, Sina Adl, Alastair G.B. Simpson, Boris Worm.  2011. How many species are there on Earth and in the Ocean? PLOS-Biology, 9(8): e1001127. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001127.

Adl, M.S., Iron, D., and Kolokolnikov, T. 2011. Organic agriculture benefits from conventional agriculture. Science of the Total Environment, 409:2192-2197.

Vincent Girard, Didier Néraudeau, Sina M. Adl , Gérard Breton. 2011. Protist-like inclusions in amber, as evidenced by Charentes amber. European Journal of Protistology, 47:59-66.

Vincent Girard, Sina M. Adl. 2011. Amber microfossils: On the validity of species concept (Microfossiles de l’ambre: sur la validité de concept d’espèce). Comptes Rendus Palevol, 10:189-200.

Adl, M.S., Girard, V., Malvina Lak,  Gérard Breton, Didier Néraudeau. 2011. Reconstructing the soil food web of a 100 million years old forest. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 43:726-735.

Mills, A.S., Adl, M.S. 2011. Changes in nematode abundances and body length in response to management intensive grazing in a low-input temperate pasture. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 43(1):150-158.

Hargreaves, J.C., Adl, M.S., Warman, P.R. 2009. The effects of municipal solid waste compost and compost tea on strawberry production. Compost Science 17(2):85-94.

Maharning, A., Mills, A.S., Adl, M.S. 2009. Soil community changes during secondary succession to naturalized grasslands. Applied Soil Ecology 41:137-147.                         doi:10.1016/j.apsoil.2008.11.003 

Hargreaves, J.C., Adl, M.S., Warman, P.R. 2009. Are compost teas an effective nutrient amendment in the cultivation of strawberries? - Soil and plant tissue effects. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 89(3):390-397.

Hargreaves, J.C., Adl, M.S., Warman, P.R., Rupasinghe, H.P.V. 2008. The effects of organic and conventional nutrient amendments on strawberry cultivation: fruit yield and quality. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 88(15):2669-2675.

Hargreaves, J.C., Adl, M.S., Warman, P.R., Rupasinghe, H.P.V. 2008. The effects of organic amendments on mineral element uptake and fruit quality of raspberries. Plant and Soil 308(1-2):213-226.

Adl, M.S. 2008. Setting the tempo in land remediation: short-term and long-term patterns in biodiversity recovery. Invited review for Microbes and Environment 23(1):13-19.

Hargreaves, J.C., Adl, M.S. and Warman, P.R. 2008. A review of the use of composted municipal solid waste in agriculture. Agriculture Environment Ecosystems 123:1-14.

Adl, M.S., Leander, B.S., Simpson, Archibald, J.M., Anderson, O.R., Barta, J.R., Bass, D., Bowser, S.S., Brugerolle, G., Farmer, M.A., Karpov, S., Kolisko, M., Lane, C.E., Lodge, J., Lynn, D.H., Mann, D.G., Meisterfeld, R., Mendoza, L., Moestrup, Ø., Mozley-Standridge, S.E., Smirnov, A.V., Spiegel, F.W. 2007. Diversity, Nomenclature and Taxonomy of Protists. Systematic Biology 56(4):684-689.

Adl, M.S. 2007. Motility and migration rate of protists in soil columns. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 39:700-703.

Adl, M.S. and Gupta, V.V.S.R. 2006. Review: Protists in soil ecology and forest nutrient cycling. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 36: 1805-1817.

Adl, M.S., Coleman, D.C. and Read, R. 2006. Slow recovery of biodiversity after 25 years of no-tillage management. Agriculture, Ecosystem and Environment 114: 323-334.