Our Team

Zac Freedman (Principal Investigator)

Zac is interested in the ecology and environmental significance of microorganisms in a changing world. He 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 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.

Zac’s CV

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.

Annalise Keaton (Research Specialist)

Annalise is a graduate from UW-Stevens Point where she focused her studies on Botany and Conservation Biology. Having lived in Wisconsin her whole life, she is passionate about conserving its beautiful ecosystems. She enjoys spending her time out in nature, in her garden or in local pottery studios.

Brooke Propson (PhD Student)

Brooke is a PhD student and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Department of Soil Science. She joined the Freedman Lab in 2021 after graduating with a B.S. from the University of Michigan in 2019. Brooke is a biogeochemist who studies the impacts of altered anthropogenic activity on nutrient cycling and storage via changes in the soil microbial community, focusing on responses to changes in atmospheric nitrogen deposition. Outside of science, she enjoys xc skiing, reading, and exploring coffee shops and breweries around Madison.

Brooke’s website
Twitter & Instagram: @bpropscience

Tanner Judd (PhD Student)

Tanner is a first year PhD student in the Freedman Lab. He earned his B.S. at West Virginia University in Agroecology in 2020 and MS in plant and soil sciences at Oklahoma State University in May 2022 before coming to UW-Madison. Tanner’s current work evaluates the role of microbes in reducing carbon loss from agricultural systems under differing management strategies

Gwen Pipes (PhD Student) 

Gwen is a first year PhD student in the Freedman Lab. She earned a B.S. in Environmental Science and an M.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University. Gwen is interested in studying restoration in anthropogenically degraded landscapes and its impact on soil carbon storage. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her cat, Atlas, doing art, and running.

Hannah Anderson (PhD Student)

Hannah is a MS+PhD track student in the Soil Science program. She earned a B.S. in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities with emphases in soil science and forestry. She is interested in the integration of methods in soil biology and biochemistry with proximal and remote soil sensing, in addition to classical soil science theory to improve our characterization and prediction of soil functioning. Her masters thesis is taking a multi-omics approach in soil microbiomics and metabolomics to investigate plant-soil interactions in organic vegetable systems. Her PhD will be investigating soil recovery from mining and agricultural disturbance through the lens of microbially mediated carbon processes, organic matter dynamics and soil sensing.

Hannah’s website

Soni Ghimire (PhD Student)

Soni joined the Freedman lab in June 2023. She earned a B.S. in Agriculture from Agriculture and Forestry University, Nepal in 2019 and an M.S. from Virginia Tech in 2023. She is interested in Soil Science, Remote Sensing, and Data Analytics. Her previous work focused on estimating the contributions of soil and cover crop N mineralization for corn. Soni’s current work integrates the use of MIR spectroscopy and inexpensive soil sensing technologies to understand the crucial microbial processes, ultimately facilitating the improvement of next-generation biogeochemical models. She enjoys cooking, reading books, watching series, and spending time with her family during her leisure time.

Clare Tallamy (MS Student)

Clare is a first year MS student in the Freedman Lab. She earned her BS in Environmental Science from Virginia Tech with focuses in Civic Agriculture and Soil Science. Clare’s previous research experience involved aspects of plant pathology and soil health while looking at disease prevalence in high tunnels. Her current project focuses on carrot root exudates’ ability to recruit a healthy soil micro biome. Whenever she can find time, Clare is baking, gardening, or finding any way to get outside.

Erica Shoenberger (Phd Student)

Erica is a PhD student in the Freedman and Picasso labs. She is conducting on-farm research in WI with the dual-purpose, perennial grain and forage, crop Kernza intermediate wheatgrass. She is exploring how transitioning land from annual to perennial grain cropping systems impacts soil health, microbial communities, and carbon dynamics. She loves camping, skiing, hanging out with her niece and nephew, growing an abundance of vegetables, and playing the guitar.

Emily Sautebin (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

Emily is a third-year student at UW–Madison. She is majoring in Environmental Sciences and Geology and Geophysics and is fascinated by these intersecting fields. She is excited to pursue a career that fuels her passion for Earth science. In her spare time, Emily enjoys hiking, biking, writing, and spending time with friends and family.

Emma Andreasson (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

Emma is a third-year student majoring in Environmental Sciences at UW-Madison. She is very passionate on plants, ecology, and trying to make a difference in the melding of the human and natural worlds. She hopes to do some kind of field work and restoration of native species in her future. When she’s not on campus she loves to make art, bake, read, take care of her many houseplants and get out when she can.

Ethan Krull (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

Ethan is a fourth-year student majoring in Environmental Sciences and Economics at UW-Madison. He is very interested in the physical environment and ecology. He hopes to make a difference working in the field by helping to provide the public with meaningful reasons to protect the natural world. When he isn’t working, you can expect to find him watching sports, lifting at the gym, and enjoying the outdoors.

Lab Alumni

Graduate Students

Salvador Grover (MS, 2023)
Dissertation Title: Early production of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) and willow (Salix spp.) indicates carbon accumulation potential in Appalachian reclaimed mine and agricultural soil
Current Position: Air Pollution Specialist at the California Air Resources Board

Greg Martin (PhD, 2022)
Dissertation Title: Anthropogenic disturbance regimes impact the microbial and chemical composition of soils and sediments across ecosystems
Current Position: Postdoc at Pacific Northwest National Lab

Jen Kane (MS, 2019; PhD, 2022)
MS Thesis Title: Soil microbial succession following surface mining is governed primarily by deterministic factors
PhD Dissertation Title: Cross-kingdom interactions shape soil biogeochemistry in natural and agricultural ecosystems
Current Position: Postdoc 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 (Independent Study, 2020)
Amalia Petropoulos (Undergraduate Research Assistant, 2021-2022)
Jeremy Fleck (Undergraduate Research Assistant, 2021-2023)
Mar Gut (Undergraduate Research Assistant, 2022-2023)
Alessia Fucentese (Undergraduate Research Assistant, 2021-2023)