Joey Knelman

Joey Knelman

INSTAAR Affiliate

  • Senior UX Researcher, Pear Therapeutics



  • PhD: University of Colorado Boulder, 2015
  • MA: University of Colorado Boulder, 2011

Contact Information


Microbial ecology, soil microbiology, biogeochemistry

Research Interests

Plant-microbe interactions, soil fertility/development, ecological succession, nutrient cycling.


My research broadly centers around soil microbiology, plant-microbe interactions, and microbial biogeochemistry in understanding how ecosystems develop and function.  I use primary and secondary successional systems to examine the factors that shape the assembly of soil microbial communities and the biogeochemical processes they mediate.  With increasing disturbance frequency and the impacts of climate change, biotic community recovery from disturbance, primary succession, and alterations in plant communities all present instances where related changes in microbial communities may have great implications for global biogeochemical cycling and how ecosystems development and function.

In particular, I am interested in how microbial and plant communities may interact to drive ecosystem succession and when, why, how, and to what extent feedbacks between plant and microbial communities matter in ecosystem dynamics.   Present work includes studies in glacial forefields, alpine tundra, and recently burned montane environments.  Insights from this work are relevant to understanding the factors that govern microbial community assembly, biogeochemical cycling, and soil and ecosystem development.  As such my research intersects with issues of ecological theory, plant performance, and soil fertility.

I was a Research Scientist within the Joint Genome Institute of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab from 2015-2017 and am currently at Verily Life Sciences.


  • NSF Graduate Research Fellow, National Science Foundation, 2011




Joey KnelmanEmily Graham, Prevey, J. S., Robeson, M. S., Kelly, P., Hood, E., Schmidt, S. K. 2018: Interspecific plant interactions reflected in soil bacterial community structure and nitrogen cycling in primary succession. Frontiers in Microbiology, 9: article 128. DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.00128

Darcy, J. L., Schmidt, S. K., Joey KnelmanCory Cleveland, Castle, S. C., Nemergut, D. R. 2018: Phosphorus, not nitrogen, limits plants and microbial primary producers following glacial retreat. Science Advances, 4(5): article eaaq0942. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaq0942

Castle, S. C., Sullivan, B. W., Joey Knelman, Hood, E., Nemergut, D. R., Schmidt, S. K., Cory Cleveland 2017: Nutrient limitation of soil microbial activity during the earliest stages of ecosystem development. Oecologia, 185(3): 513-524. DOI: 10.1007/s00442-017-3965-6

Yuan, X., Joey Knelman, Wang, D., Goebl, A., Eve GasarchTim Seastedt 2017: Patterns of soil bacterial richness and composition tied to plant richness, soil nitrogen, and soil acidity in alpine tundra. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 49(3): 441-453. DOI: 10.1657/AAAR0016-050

Joey KnelmanKnelman, J. E., Graham, E. B., Ferrenberg, S., Lecoeuvre, A., Labrado, A., Darcy, J. L., Nemergut, D. R., Schmidt, S. K. 2017: Rapid shifts in soil nutrients and decomposition enzyme activity in early succession following forest fire. Forests, 8(9): 347. DOI: 10.3390/f8090347

Nemergut, D. R., Joey Knelman, Ferrenberg, S., Bilinski, T., Melbourne, B., Jiang, L., Violle, C., Darcy, J. L., Prest, T., Schmidt, S. K., Townsend, A. R. 2016: Decreases in average bacterial community rRNA operon copy number during succession. ISME Journal, 10(5): 1147-1156. DOI: 10.1038/ismej.2015.191

Yuan, X., Joey KnelmanEve Gasarch, Wang, D., Nemergut, D. R., Tim Seastedt 2016: Plant community and soil chemistry responses to long-term nitrogen inputs drive changes in alpine bacterial communities. Ecology, 97(6): 1543-1554. DOI: 10.1890/15-1160.1

Joey Knelman, Nemergut, D. R. 2014: Changes in community assembly may shift the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function. Frontiers in Microbiology, 5: 424. DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00424

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