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Office Hours: 
open door or by appt
Office Location: 
Hayden 158

Alain F. Plante

Associate Professor
Undergraduate Chair


  • Ph.D. (2001) – Soil Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton AB, Canada
  • M.Sc.(1996) – Soil Science, University of Guelph, Guelph ON, Canada
  • B.Sc.(Eng.) (1994) – Environmental Engineering, University of Guelph, Guelph ON, Canada 

Soil carbon biogeochemistry: The primary focus is on the various biological, chemical and physical processes that contribute to soil organic matter stabilization and destabilization in both temperate and tropical surface soils. The current opportunity centers on the further development and application of thermal analysis to the characterization of soil organic matter, with increasing emphasis on cross-correlations with other advanced analytical techniques, and the quantification of pyrogenic carbon forms such as biochar.

Urban biogeochemistry: New and evolving research projects are being developed to study the biogeochemical functioning of urban ecosystems in collaboration with the USFS Philadelphia Field Station. Emphasis will be on the cycling and storage of carbon and nutrients in soil, biotic and aquatic components of urban, suburban and peri-urban ecosystems.

These fellowships are ideal for candidates who have completed an MSc in soil science, geosciences, environmental chemistry, ecosystem science or related fields, but outstanding BSc graduates in such programs will be considered. Good written and oral communication skills and ability to work on a team are necessary.

For further information about current research and available positions contact Dr. Alain Plante by email. Applications can be submitted directly online ( before December 15.

Research Interests

My research interests lie in the field of terrestrial carbon biogeochemistry. I am interested in the mechanisms and process that act to stabilize and de-stabilize organic carbon in surface soils, and the links between the soil carbon balance and the broader global carbon cycle. 

Selected Publications

  • Plante AF, SR Beaupre, ML Roberts and T Baisden. 2013. Distribution of radiocarbon ages in soil organic matter by thermal fractionation. Radiocarbon. 55(2-3):1077-1083.
  • Feng W, AF Plante and J Six. 2013. Improving estimates of maximal organic carbon stabilization by fine soil particles. Biogeochemistry. 112:81-93.
  • Fernández JM, C Peltre, JM Craine and AF Plante. 2012. Improved characterization of soil organic matter by thermal analysis using CO2/H20 evolved gas analysis. Environmental Science & Technology. 46:8921-8927

More details at Google Scholar.

Courses Taught

  • ENVS200: Introduction to Environmental Earth Science (Fall)
  • GEOL421/541: Elemental Cycling in Global Earth Systms (Spring, even years)
  • ENVS400: The Anthropocene: A Human-Dominated Earth (Spring, odd years)
  • GEOL411/511: Soil Science (Spring)


Biology Graduate Group, University of Pennsylvania 

Department of Earth and Environmental Science / University of Pennsylvania, 251 Hayden Hall, 240 South 33rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6316