What is Phosphorus and why does it matter?

Difficulty Rating: Easy . Academic Discipline: Biology, agricultural ecology, biogeochemistry, Earth Science . Keywords: limiting nutrient, interview

Standards: science as a human endeavor

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Clip Guide

Clip Guide

: Here you will find clear descriptions of what you just saw, how they know what they said they knew, why they know it to be trustworthy information. Finally we will ask the question, "So what!" and explore why the information is important.

WHAT do we know?

In this glossary clip, scientists Kim Epps and Gabe Filippelli describe what Phosphorus is and why it is important to life on Earth. This clip was taken from an interview conducted in 2009 at an AGCI workshop on the State of the Global Phosphorus Cycle.

WHO are they?

Kim Epps:

Kim Epps is a biogeochemist whose introduction to the realm of soil fertility and phosphorus cycling in tropical soils came during service in the Peace Corps in Cameroon, Central Africa. While expounding on the merits of nitrogen-fixing trees and shrubs, she discovered farmers' greater concern over phosphorus fertility. She entered the programs of International Agricultural Development and Soil Science at the University of California in Davis, where her master's research entailed ranking the susceptibility of freshwater marshes in Belize to phosphorus loading by sediment type. Dr. Epps performed her doctoral work at the University of Florida, centered on exploring the relationship between the chemical diversity of tree species and litter decomposition in the context of the highly diverse Atlantic Forest of Bahia, Brazil. She is currently exploring several new topics including relating the molecular sequence of carbon transformation of degrading organic matter to microbial activity, as well as contrasting the phosphorus acquisition strategies of invasive and native nitrogen-fixing and non-fixing species in highly phosphorus-limiting environments.

Gabe Filippelli:

Gabriel Filippelli specializes in global biogeochemical cycles, climate change science, and environmental geochemistry. Much of his work has focused on geochemical records of climate extracted from oceans and lakes, and he has studied heavy metal distribution and geochemistry in wetland, soil, and riparian environments. He is an Associate Editor of Applied Geochemistry, Chair of the Science Planning Committee for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, Associate Director of the Indiana University Center for Environmental Health, and the recent Past Chair of the Geology and Health Division of the Geological Society of America, and past Chair of the US National Committee on Scientific Ocean Drilling. Dr. Filippelli earned a B.S. in geology from U.C. Davis, spent two years afterwards on a small island in the Pacific (Onotoa) as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer. He received his PhD in Earth sciences from U.C. Santa Cruz, and came to Indiana University/ Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in August 1994, where he is currently a Professor and Chair of the Department of Earth Sciences.


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Further Reading
Further Reading: 

At the 2009 AGCI workshop:

Dr. Epps gave a presentation entitled "What regulates recovery time of water bodies following cessation of P loading?"  Her PowerPoint slides from this presentation can be found by clicking here.

Dr. Filippelli gave two presentations: "Global P Cycle: The Marine Realm"  and "P Weathering Rates." His PowerPoint slides can be found by clicking here.