Scientists & Staff

Katherine Heckman

Katherine A. Heckman

Research Biological Scientist
410 MacInnes Drive
Houghton, MI, 49931-1134
Phone: 906-482-6303 x1313

Contact Katherine A. Heckman

Current Research

  • I lead the Radiocarbon Collaborative, a collaboration-based research initiative sponsored by the Northern Research Station. The Radiocarbon Collaborative expands Forest Service researcher access to radiocarbon analysis, with the goal of assisting researchers in creating statistically robust radiocarbon datasets which address climate change and terrestrial carbon cycling science. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in applying radiocarbon analysis to your research.
  • Additionally, I participate in soil organic matter research with a focus on mechanisms of organic matter stabilization and mineralogy.

Research Interests

The response of the soil organic matter pool to climate change is currently the largest uncertainty in global C cycle models. My research is focused on elucidating the molecular-to-field scale mechanisms of organic C stabilization in soils, with the goal of improving our ability to predict soil C vulnerability to climate change and discovering methods of managing our soils to preserve soil C stocks.

Past Research

Heckman K, Welty-Bernard A, Vazquez-Ortega A, Schwartz E, Chorover J, Rasmussen C (2013) The influence of goethite and gibbsite on soluble nutrient dynamics and microbial community composition. Biogeochemistry, 112(1): 179-195.

Heckman K, Vazquez-Ortega A, Gao X, Chorover J, Rasmussen C (2011) Changes in water extractable organic matter during incubation of forest floor material in the presence of quartz, goethite and gibbsite surfaces. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 75: 4295-4309.

Heckman K, Rasmussen C (2011) Lithologic controls on regolith weathering and mass flux in forested ecosystems of the southwestern USA. Geoderma, 164: 99-111.

Heckman K, Welty-Bernard A, Rasmussen C, Schwartz E (2009) Geologic controls of soil carbon cycling and microbial dynamics in temperate conifer forests. Chemical Geology 267: 12-23.

Heckman K, Anderson WB, Wait DA (2006) Distribution and activity of hypolithic soil crusts in a hyperarid desert (Baja California, Mexico). Biology and Fertility of Soils 43: 263-266.

Why This Research is Important

Radiocarbon dating is a unique and powerful tool for the analysis of ecosystem processes. Incorporation of radiocarbon analyses into a broader range of controlled experiments and field studies stands to vastly improve both our understanding of C cycling processes in ecosystems and the response of those ecosystems to changes in climate conditions.


  • University of Arizona, Water & Environmental Science, Ph.D. Soil, Water & Environmental Science, 2010
  • Drury University, B.A. Biology & Environmental Science, 2004

Professional Experience

  • Associate Editor, Geoderma 2016 - Current
  • Adjunct faculty, Michigan Technological University 2016 - Current
  • Research Biological Scientist, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service 2015 - Current
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Environmental Quality 2014 - 2017
  • Affiliate scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab 2012 - 2015
  • Visiting scientist, Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Lawrence Livermore National Lab 2011 - 2015
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service 2011 - 2015
  • Research Assistant/Associate, Soil, Water & Environmental Science Department, University of Arizona 2006 - 2010

Professional Organizations

  • Soil Science Society of America
  • Association for Women in Soil Science
  • Geological Society of America
  • American Geophysical Union

Publications & Products

Other Publications

  • Hribljan JA, Cooper DJ, Sueltenfuss J, Wolf E, Heckman K, Lilleskov EA, Chimner RA (2015) Carbon storage and long-term rate of accumulation in high altitude Andean peatlands of Bolivia. Mires and Peat, 15: 1-14

    Kinney KM, Asner GP, Cordell S, Chadwick OA, Heckman K, Hotchkiss S, Jerai M, Kennedy-Bowdoin T, Knapp DE, Questad EJ, Thaxton JM, Trusdell F, Kellner JR (2015) Primary succession on a Hawaiian dryland chronosequene. PLoS ONE. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0123995

    JA O'Donnell, GR Aiken, MA Walvoord, KD Butler, MM Dornblaser, K Heckman (2014) Using DOM age and composition to detect permafrost thaw in boreal streams of interior Alaska. Journal of Geographic Research-Biogeosciences, 199. DOI: 10.1002/2014JG002695

    Heckman K, Throckmorton H, Clingensmith C, González Vila FJ, Horwath WR, Knicker H, Rasmussen C (2014) Factors affecting the molecular structure and mean residence time of occluded organics in a lithosequence of soils under ponderosa pine. Soil Biology & Biochemistry. DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2014.05.028

National Research Highlights

Map showing the location of projects supported by the Radiocarbon Collaborative.

Radiocarbon sheds light on climate change and carbon cycle

Year: 2017

The Forest Service provides nationwide support for carbon and climate research through the Radiocarbon Collaborative, which has supported a wide range of projects that have produced high-impact publications, as well as important information for land managers and conservationists. In 2017, the Radiocarbon Collaborative launched an online resource center featuring radiocarbon information and social networking opportunities.

Last modified: Monday, March 26, 2018