Our Team

Zac Freedman (Principal Investigator)

Zac is interested in the ecology, evolution and environmental significance of microorganisms and whether we can lean on microbes to help save the world. Zac completed his postdoctoral training at the University of Michigan with Dr. Don Zak and his PhD at Rutgers University with Dr. Tamar Barkay. Zac is a native of Evanston, Illinois and enjoys long walks, hikes and bike rides, discovering new music, and all things hockey. Before embarking on a career in science, Zac was a camp counselor, a hot dog vendor at Wrigley Field in Chicago and a security guard at the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington State.

Zoë Goodrow (Research Specialist)

Zoë is the Research Specialist for the Freedman Lab. She earned her M.S. in conservation ecology from the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS). Her background is in wildlife biology and field mammalogy. She brings a wealth of research and student mentorship experience from working at field stations across North America. When not in the field or the lab, Zoë enjoys traveling, running, cheering on the Michigan Wolverines (Go Blue!), and spending time with her dog, Tiger.

Grace Cagle (Postdoctoral Fellow)

Grace is interested in understanding what factors shape microbiomes to better predict how environmental changes will affect microbial functions. In the Freedman lab, she will be using pitcher plants as a model system to study microbial community assembly and biogeography. Before joining the lab, she earned her PhD at Louisiana State University and was an NSF EAPSI fellow at the Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Grace’s interest in microbial ecology developed as an undergraduate while working on a wetland restoration project with poor soils. She enjoys tropical climates, music, good food, and spending time with her husband and two dogs.

Brooke Propson (PhD Student)

Brooke is a first year Ph.D. student and National Science Foundation Fellow (NSF-GRF) in the Soil Science Department at UW-Madison. She earned a B.S. in Ecology, Evolution, & Biodiversity (EEB) and the undergraduate Program in the Environment (PitE) at the University of Michigan. Brooke is a biogeochemist and ecosystem ecologist interested in the impacts of altered anthropogenic activity on nutrient cycling and storage via changes in soil microbial community structure and function.

Brooke’s website
Twitter & Instagram: @bpropscience

Salvador Grover (MS Student)

Salvador is a MS student at UW-Madison in the Agroecology program. He is interested in making agricultural production more sustainable by studying the interactions among plants, microbes, and soils. Before coming to Madison, he received his bachelor’s in environmental science and management at UC Davis, and later on worked in their small grains cropping systems lab. While there, he was able to help local growers make better management decisions to reduce their environmental impact while also improving yields. Outside of science, he is very passionate about music, exercising, and cooking.

Hannah Anderson (MS Student)

Hannah is a MS+PhD track student in the Soil Science program at UW-Madison. She earned a B.S. in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where she was immersed in an abundance of experiences in the soil sciences. Her previous research experience has focused on microbial ecology and evolutionary biology within disease suppressive soils. Primarily interested in understanding the biological processes fundamental to plant health and stability, her MS research is investigating the role of root exudates on the recruitment and functional potential of soil microbiomes under organic carrot.

Jenni Kane (PhD Candidate)

Jenni is a PhD candidate at West Virginia University and is co-advised with Dr. Ember Morrissey. Jenni is a graduate of Fairmont State University with a B.S. in Biology and from WVU with a M.S. in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. She is investigating how plant-soil-microbe interactions influence crop yield and quality in bioenergy agroecosystems. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her husband and playing with her dog, Wilbur as well as spending time outside hiking.

Elisabeth Six (MS Student)

Elisabeth is a MS student at West Virginia University and is co-advised with Dr. Charlene Kelly. Elisabeth is from Chester, WV and graduated from WVU in 2019 with a B.S. in Animal and Nutritional Sciences. She is determining the soil and microbial factors that underlie differential regeneration of economically valuable tree species in the Allegheny National Forest, PA.

Amalia Petropoulos (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

Amalia is an undergraduate in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at UW-Madison. She is majoring in Genetics and Genomics and plans on pursuing a career in the agriculture biotechnology industry. She has always been interested in the fungi and soil microbes that make our soil such a connected network. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, biking along Chicago’s lakeshore paths and collecting an enormous amount of indoor house plants.

Alessia Fucentese (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

Alessia is a sophomore at UW- Madison in the College of Letters and Science. She is majoring in Environmental studies and Botany.  She is also persuing the Biocore Curriculum Honors certificate. Fascinated with plants and how they affect society, she hopes to become a research scientist who specializes in important food crops. She is originally from Needham, Massachusetts and she enjoys exploring the beaches, mountains and forests of New England.  In her free time, she enjoys gardening, hiking, spending time with friends, and learning as much about plants and the natural world as possible.


Lab Alumni

Graduate Students

Greg Martin (PhD, 2022)

Thesis Title: Anthropogenic disturbance regimes impact the microbial and chemical composition of soils and sediments across ecosystems
Current Position:

Jenni Kane (MS, 2019)

Thesis Title: Soil microbial succession following surface mining is governed primarily by deterministic factors
Current Position: PhD candidate at West Virginia University.

Brianna Mayfield (MS, 2019)

Thesis Title: Mine reclamation using biofuel crops: Insights into the microbial ecology of the switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) microbiome.
Current Position: Senior Research Services Professional at University of Colorado Denver.

Jordan Koos (MS, 2018)

Thesis Title: Prescribed defoliation strategies influence soil carbon storage and nitrous oxide emission potential in West Virginia pastures
Current Position: Soil Conservationist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Undergraduate Students

Anella Cousin (Undergraduate Research Assistant, 2020-2022)
Annalisa Stevenson (Independant Study, 2020)