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IBI Science Committee Members

Dr. Ellen R. Graber, Chairperson

Since 1992, I have been a scientist at The Volcani Center, Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), which is part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, State of Israel. I currently serve as Head (rank equivalent to Full Professor) of the Department of Soil Chemistry, Plant Nutrition, and Microbiology, which is part of the Institute of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences of the ARO. My career has been dedicated to multi-faceted and cross-disciplinary research in agriculture and the environment, with a focus since 2009 on biochar use in agriculture. Specifically, I concentrate on biochar-elicited plant growth promotion and plant resistance to disease, as well as on biochar chemistry, and interactions between biochar and soil-applied agrochemicals and soil contaminants. In 2013, I was named Volcani Center “Scientist of the Year” in recognition of my biochar-related research. The work of my group is highlighted at the site of the Israel Biochar Researchers Network (iBRN), and a comprehensive list of my publications can be found here.


Transparency Declaration: Funding for my biochar research comes mainly from public research foundation grants. I have one grant focusing on pyrolysis liquids funded by a private donation, and one focused on biochar potential as a fertilizer funded by the company, Israel Chemical Industries. I am a salaried employee and have not received any private remuneration for either research or consulting.


Prof. M. Francesca Cotrufo

Since 2008 I have been a professor at the department of Soil and Crop Sciences, and senior scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Lab, at Colorado State University. I earned my B.Sc. from the University of Naples, Italy and my Ph.D. from Lancaster University, UK. Prior to join CSU, I worked as a professor at the Second University of Naples, Italy. I am a soil ecologist and biogeochemist with leading experience in the field of litter decomposition and soil organic matter C and N dynamics, and in the use of isotopic methodologies in these studies. My main research interest is in the understanding of C and N fluxes from plant litter to soil and the atmosphere, and their response and feedback to global environmental changes and disturbances, such as management and fire. I also pursue applied research to propose soil management practices that increase soil health and mitigate climate change, as for example the study of biochar in soils.  I am an editor of the journal Global Change Biology and committee chair of the EcoCore Analytical Service facility at Colorado State University. To date I have published over 90 peer reviewed articles and several book chapters.


Transparency Declaration: Funding for my biochar research has mainly come from USDA-funded competitive grants, such as the BANR project, and I have occasionally used the Cotrufo-Hoppess fund for soil ecology research, supported by private donors, for biochar studies. More recently, Coolplanet is funding research on their coolterra products.


Maria Luz Cayuela

Maria Luz Cayuela is presently a researcher at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). She received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Murcia and has worked as a postdoc fellow in the United States Department of Agriculture (USA), the Council of Agricultural Research (Italy), Wageningen University (The Netherlands), and Cornell University (USA). Her expertise includes soil biochemistry and organic waste recycling in agriculture with special attention to C and N cycling. Over the last few years she has specialized on greenhouse gas emissions from soils, studying the impact of biochar on soil nitrous oxide emissions. She currently serves as an Associate Editor for Geoderma.

Transparency Declaration: Funding for my biochar research comes from public research grants from regional, national and European programs. I am a public employee and do not receive private remuneration from private companies for my research.





Prof. Dr. Bruno Glaser

Since 2010, I have been full professor of Soil Biogeochemistry at the Institute of Agronomy and Nutritional Sciences of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (Germany). My areas of expertise and research activities are focused on identification and quantification of biogeochemical processes at the soil-plant-water interface. To achieve this, I use and develop sophisticated analytical tools such as molecular markers and stable isotope labelling and analysis. Furthermore, I am dealing with sustainable use of natural resources such as soils and biomass and the role of soil organic matter for soil fertility. The scale of my research ranges from molecular to ecosystem levels. Current field work is concentrated in Europe, Africa and South America with current research projects in Germany, Brazil, and Ethiopia. I published widely in soil science, environmental science and biogeochemistry, having authored 24 book chapters and 142 peer-reviewed papers with an H-index of 40 (ISI Web of Knowledge). My projects are interdisciplinary and international. I received research grants from the European Union (EU), the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). I am a reviewer for a wide range of international journals, currently I act as editor for Journal of Environmental Management and Landscape Engineering and Agronomy for Sustainable Development. Furthermore, I am within the editorial boards of several journals including Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science. From 2012 – 2016, I was Chair of the EU COST Action TD1107 (Biochar as option for sustainable resources management). Finally, I am among the biochar pioneers, starting with the investigation of Amazonian Dark Earths in the 1990s, being the basis for nowadays biochar hype.


Transparency Declaration: Funding for my biochar research comes mainly from public research foundation grants (BMBF, DFG, EU). I am chair of a non-profit organization (Biochar Europe), which holds a European intellectual property right (EP 1 739 067 A1), given to any small-scale and non-profit users for free. I am a salaried employee and have not received any private remunerations for either research or consulting.

Dr. Simon Jeffery

I am a soil microbial ecologist with a particular interest in ecosystem function and in how soil organisms drive processes and functions across scales from local to global. My work has been focused on understanding such processes with the aim of increasing the sustainability of our use of soils. I am currently a Senior Lecturer in Sustainable Technology at Harper Adams University, UK. I first started working on biochar in 2009 through co-authorship of a report to the European Commission on the interactions between biochar and soil processes and functions. Since that time I have run a number of projects aimed at investigating the mechanisms underlying biochar’s observed and claimed effects following soil application. This work has led to numerous publications in international peer reviewed journals, a comprehensive list of which can be found here.

Transparency Declaration: Most of my funding comes from non-biochar related research. I have received one grant to my institute for investigating novel uses of biochar for water remediation. I am a salaried employee and have not received any private remuneration for either research or consultancy


Prof. Dr. Claudia Kammann

Chair of climate research, Hochschule Geisenheim University.








Dr. Heike Knicker

Since 2008, I am working as a Research Professor at the Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiología de Sevilla which is part of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Spain. Most of my research is dedicated to issues related to soil biochemistry. The spectrum of projects ranges from the investigation of the interactions and stabilization of organic carbon and nitrogen in soils and sediments to the impact of changing soil managing practices on quantity and quality of soil organic matter. In addition, I am interested in the effect of vegetation fires on soil organic matter stability, which led me to the study of biochars. Finally, the latter became a major topic of my present scientific activity. As a biochemist, I am highly interested in advancing analytical tools - in particular solid-state NMR spectroscopy - for an improved understanding not only of the structure and function of soil organic matter, biochars and related samples but also the interactions between the first and the latter. In 2016, I was awarded the Philippe Duchaufour Medal of the European Geosciences Union for outstanding research in the field of soil organic matter, in particular on the impact of fire on humic materials, and for furthering the knowledge of the origin and properties of pyrogenic soil organic carbon and nitrogen.

Transparency Declaration: Presently, I only receive funding for my biochar research from public research foundation grants. I am involved in four ongoing projects focusing on biochar. One is focusing on the application of biochar and related materials in horticulture, two others are related to use biochar and related materials as slow release N-fertilizer and in soil bioremediation approaches. I am a salaried employee, and have not received any private remuneration for either research or consulting.


Dr. David Laird

David Laird received his Ph.D. in Agronomy from Iowa State University in 1987. He joined the USDA-ARS as a research scientist in 1988 spending three years with the Soil and Water Management Research Unit in St. Paul Minnesota before joining the staff of the USDA-ARS National Soil Tilth Laboratory in Ames Iowa in 1991 where he served as both a research scientist and a lead scientist.  Dr. Laird joined the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University as a professor in 2010, where he teaches ‘Responses to Global Resource Systems Challenges’, the senior capstone class in the Global Resource Systems major.  The class explores critical global resource issues facing developed and developing countries and challenges students to conduct original research and analysis and to strengthen their writing and communications skills.  Dr. Laird also teaches ‘Environmental Soil Mineralogy’.  This graduate level class explores the structure, chemistry, and function of clay minerals, clay-organic interactions in soil environments, and advanced analytical techniques.  Dr. Laird has mentored or co-mentored 20 graduate students and 10 visiting scientists and postdoctoral scholars. He is the author or co-author of more than 120 refereed journal articles and book chapters. A list of Dr. Laird’s publications is available here.

Dr. Laird’s research interests include the development of soil sensing technology for precision management of soil nutrients; the impact of soil biochar amendments on soil quality, nutrient leaching, and carbon sequestration; the chemical, mineralogical, and surface properties of soil clays; interactions of pesticides and other organic compounds with soil clays; the nature of humic substances in soils; and clay-humic-biochar interactions.  Dr. Laird’s research related to biochar ranges from molecular to global scales.  His team has investigated the nature and structure of biochars; the influence of feedstock and production conditions on biochar surface chemistry, stability, and the weathering (aging) of biochars in soils; soil-biochar interactions particularly as they related to nutrient and water retention; crop growth and yield response to biochar applications at both the greenhouse and field scales; and the development of a biochar module within the APSIM cropping systems model that can predict crop and environmental responses to biochar applications at the local, regional, and potentially even global scales.

Transparency Declaration:  Funding for Dr. Laird’s biochar research has come primarily through grants from the USDA-NIFA, NSF-EPSCOR, and the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP is administered by Stanford University but funded by a consortium of private industries).  A small fraction of funding for biochar research has come from the Iowa Soybean Association and Conoco-Phillips (now Phillips 66). Dr. Laird is a co-founder and president of N-Sense, LLC., a small private company focused on developing soil sensor technology for precision agriculture applications. 

Prof. Dr. Johannes Lehmann

Johannes Lehmann, professor of soil biogeochemistry and soil fertility management at Cornell University, received his graduate degrees in Soil Science at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. During the past 20 years, he has focused on nano-scale investigations of soil organic matter, the biogeochemistry of pyrogenic carbon and sequestration in soil, sustainable land management practices in tropical agriculture, and biochar-bioenergy systems. Dr. Lehmann is a member of the steering group of the International Soil Carbon Network, has testified in the US congress, briefed the President’s council of advisors, was part of Workgroup 2 on Monitoring and Assessment of Sustainable Land Management of UNCCD, and serves on the Technical Management Advisory Committee of USAID’s legume program. Dr. Lehmann has authored more than 200 journal publications, was named Highly-Cited Researcher by Thomson Reuter in 2014-2016, and is the editor-in-chief of the journal Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems. He co-founded the International Biochar Initiative in 2007 and served as Chair of its Board of Directors with interruption from 2007 to 2016.


Transparency Declaration: Funding for my biochar research comes mainly from public research grants, such as the US National Science Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, or the US Department of Energy, but also from private foundations. I am a salaried employee and have not received any private remuneration for either research or consulting.

Dr. Isabel M. Lima

I am a research chemist with the ARS, Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture since 2001. I am located in New Orleans at the Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC).  I was hired then to find value-added solutions and technologies to the increasing manure disposal problem.  I then started to create and develop various biochars as well as upgrading them to activated biochars for environmental remediation, using various animal manures particularly those from CAFO’s, confined animal feeding operations.  It was determined that biochars produced from poultry manure are excellent at removing positively charged heavy metals from water. Two patents from this technology were filled. The biochar work has continued and expanded to also cover the development and manufacture of biochars from various plant and animal biomass materials to be used to remediate air, and soil. Most recently biochar has been produced from byproducts of sugar crops such as bagasse and applied onto fields for soil amending and crop enhancement.


Transparency Declaration: ARS is a federally funded agency with funds appropriated by congress and my biochar research is specified as an objective in an approved project plan that is rewritten every 5 years. I am a salaried employee and do not receive any private remuneration for either research or consulting activities. I have received a few small grants focusing on application of sugarcane bagasse biochar onto sugarcane plots and a fellowship grant to study the adsorption properties of biochar from sugarcane crop residues. A description of my current research project can be found in the ARS website. For further information or a complete list of publications please contact Suhad at

Dr. Caroline A. Masiello

I am a full professor in the Department of Earth, Environment, and Planetary Sciences at Rice University, where I am also jointly appointed in Chemistry and Biosciences.  My research focuses on how organic matter, microbes, minerals, and water act together to form functioning soil systems. My biochar research focuses in three areas: the interaction between microbes and biochar, the effects of biochar on soil water processes, and the economics of biochar use.  I am particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms that control biochar’s environmental behavior so that we can better predict when its application to soils will be successful.  In the area of biochar economics I am interested in how biochar benefits can be best quantified so that they can be accurately accounted for in cost-benefit analyses.  My group’s research has been highlighted here, here, and here, and a full list of my publications can be found here.

Transparency Declaration: 70% of the funding for my research comes US federal government competitive research grants (NSF, DOE, USDA).  An additional 20% of my research has been funded by private foundations. 5% of my research has been funded either directly or indirectly from industry sources, and an additional 5% of my research has come from Texas state sources.  I am a salaried employee and have not received any private remuneration for either research or consulting.



Dr. Genxing Pan

Since 1988, I have been a soil scientist and a director at the Institute of Resources, Environment and Ecosystem of Agriculture, Nanjing Agricultural University. I have been since 2005 an IPCC expert in greenhouse gas mitigation and soil C sequestration, particularly as a CLA of the Supplement to 2006 Guideline of Greenhouse gas Inventory: Wetlands. I have also acted as a major expert in developing low carbon measure of agriculture for 2nd and 3rd China National Assessment of Climate Change Report released in 2009 and 2010, and the Catalog of Key Low Carbon Economy Technologies released in 2013. Since 2009, I have led a group in biochar technologies for recycling biowaste mainly from crop residues and animal husbandry wastes, and in creating novel biochar fertilizers from pyrolyzed biowastes for reducing chemical fertilizers. I have profound experience in cooperating with biochar industries from China, on biomass pyrolysis and biochar production for green agriculture. I have been also active in organizing international training and exchanges in biochar science and technology, particularly with Asian and African countries. Our innovations in biochar production systems, biochar product development and field trials and demonstration have been guiding China’s sector of crop straw recycling and biochar fertilizers application, pushed under the authority of China’s Ministry of Agriculture.    

Transparency Declaration: Funding for my biochar research comes mainly from public research foundation grants mainly from China’s foundation of Natural Science (NSFC), China Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST, China). I have also some grants from biochar industry sector to train the personal and to provide scientific information on biochar production and application in agriculture. I am a salaried employee at the University but receive some payments for delivering scientific information for the industry sector.

Prof. Dr. Frederik Ronsse

Since 2011, I have been a professor (tenure track, since 2016, associate professor) at Ghent University. I currently am the head of the Thermochemical Biomass Conversion research group as part of the Department of Biosystems Engineering (Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University). I am responsible for managing a team with expertise in thermochemical conversion of biomass, including techniques such as fast and slow pyrolysis, gasification, torrefaction and hydrothermal liquefaction. The major focus is on slow pyrolysis for the production of biochar using biomass containing residue streams from agriculture and from biorefineries. Next to thermochemical biomass conversion, my research field also concerns process engineering with respect to multiphase flow analysis, including fluidization, technology of granular matter and powders, study of heat and mass transfer, and modeling techniques including Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD).

In addition to research, I teach several courses in the field of process engineering, thermochemical conversion of biomass and solid waste management (both in Ghent and at our branch campus in Songdo, South-Korea). I am the program coordinator for the Master of Science in Bioscience Engineering: Chemistry and Bioprocess Engineering at Ghent University. A comprehensive list of my publications can be found here.


Transparency Declaration: The majority of my current biochar and pyrolysis related research is funded through public research grants or through university grants (Ghent University). Our research group has received funding for earlier biochar-stability related research from a private company (Evonik). I am a full-time salaried employee and have not received any private remuneration for either research or consulting.

Dr. Saran Sohi

I hold an academic position at the University of Edinburgh, School of GeoSciences. The driver for my scientific research relates to the interface of land use with environment, particularly management of the plant–soil interface in agriculture and forestry. In conjunction with other innovations, pyrolysis may integrate with other innovations to valorize biomass and optimize crop performance. I am particularly interested in the flexibility offered in this proposition, over time and space. Laboratory-based work with biochar – as part of UK Biochar Research Centre – addressed major mechanistic questions surrounding biochar function in soil and around plant roots. As a multi-disciplinary initiative, the Centre also set a strong systems context through life cycle and economic analyses. The general understanding based on initial findings in the foundation for my current work, which focuses on context-specific questions and applications. A full list of my scientific journal articles is here.

Transparency Declaration: I have received basic and applied University research funds (also networking grants) from public sources (UK Research Councils, UK central Government and agencies, the European Commission). I have also undertaken basic research with private sector companies (with and without public sector contribution). I am a salaried employee of the University, receiving limited private remuneration for occasional consulting activities.


Dr. Lukas Van Zwieten

I am a Principal Research Scientist with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, and Adjunct Professor at Southern Cross Plant Science. My research focuses on driving the performance of soils to improve primary production and to ensure the continued availability of this crucial resource for food production. Work includes developing an improved scientific understanding of soil function, rhizosphere processes and microbial resilience to stressors, particularly relating to C and N cycling; and evaluating risks and remediation options for contaminants in the soil environment. Lukas has managed a 10 year field trial on biochar, with results on new carbon stabilization from this field site published in Nature Climate Change. A full list of publications can be found here and here.

Transparency Declaration: I am a salaried employee of the NSW Government (100%) and have not received any private remuneration. Research funds are entirely sourced from competitive grants.




Dr. Frank Verheijen

I am a physical geographer (University of Amsterdam) and hold a fellowship of the National Science Foundation at the University of Aveiro, Portugal. My primary research interest is the interaction between vegetation - soil organic matter - soil hydrology dynamics. My PhD research focused on soil organic matter management and on-farm economics in England & Wales. I led an interdisciplinary team at the European Commission Joint Research Centre in writing a major review on biochar that was presented at the COP15 in 2009 and published as a peer-reviewed EC report in 2010. My current biochar research focuses on soil hydrology, environmental mobility and fate, ecotoxicology, and conceptual work on biochar sustainability. I am one of the founders of the Biochar Investigation Network of Portugal (BINP) and led working group 2 ‘Land Use Management’ for the COST Action TD1107 ‘Biochar as an option for sustainable resource management’. An overview of my published scientific work can be found here.

Transparency Declaration: I am a National Science Foundation grantholder and have not received any private sector funding for my research.