Malak M. Tfaily

Primary Investigator | Assistant Professor


Malak is an ecosystem scientist with a PhD degree in Analytical chemistry from Florida State University.  Her research aims to improve the understanding of carbon cycling in terrestrial and aquatic systems, the microbial-organic matter interactions that underlie it, and the controls upon it in dynamically changing systems. She uses a combination of modern and unique analytical molecular, geochemical and isotopic techniques to answer how, where and when organic matter formation and degradation takes place in different ecosystems. Malak’s research training focused on dissolved organic matter characterization during her PhD, soil organic matter characterization during my postdoctoral research, and recently  has advanced to the systems-level integration of detailed organic matter characterization with insights from molecular microbial ecology and plant biology, with the direct goal of distilling the findings of these syntheses for improved predictive modeling of ecosystem and global change.

Current Lab Members:

Moira Hough

Postdoctoral Researcher | ENVS | EEB

Linnea Katherine Honeker

Postdoctoral Researcher | Biosphere2 | SNRE | ENVS

Roya AminiTabrizi

Graduate Student | ENVS

Roya is from Urmia, a city in northwest Iran. She received her bachelor’s degree in pure chemistry from Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran on July 2016. In January 2017, she moved to Edwardsville, Illinois and started a master’s study in Analytical chemistry at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She graduated on July 2018 and moved to Tucson, Az to start the Analytical chemistry PhD program at the University of Arizona. Currently, Roya is doing her PhD in Soil, Water and Environmental Science with a minor in Analytical chemistry.

Roya’s research in Dr. Tfaily’s lab revolves around carbon cycling in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, the interactions between microbial communities and organic matter, their geochemical environment and the resulting impact on the whole ecosystem. She uses a combination of modern analytical molecular techniques (high resolution mass spectrometry), geochemical (wet chemistry and gas flux) and isotopic techniques (natural abundance, and isotope enrichment) to answer the how, where and how organic matter degradation and formation takes place in different ecosystems. Her work examines the direct relationship between organic matter composition, the activity of the biological community, the geochemical signature of the activity and how that signature may translate between environments thus enhancing our understanding of the current and past processes that drive our planet. Her main research site is a permafrost site in Northern Sweden. In addition to characterizing organic matter composition at this site, she is looking at exploring new ways, methods and approaches to characterize unknown metabolites by Liquid chromatography mass spectrometry.

Viviana Estefania Freire Zapata

Graduate Student | ENVS

Christian Orlando Ayala Ortiz

Graduate Student | ENVS

Gina Ann Hildebrand

Masters Student | ENVS

Rylie Gosiak

Accelerated Masters Student | ENVS

Rylie grew up in Maricopa, AZ and has been at U of A for three years. She will be entering the Environmental Science accelerated masters program in the Fall of 2020. Rylie has always been interested in the environment because she enjoys being outside and feels passionate about protecting our planet. After completing her masters, she would like to go into the Hydrology field. In her spare time she enjoys watching Netflix, spending time with her family, and hanging out with friends.

Rylie is working on the Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) project, where she is helping characterize organic matter through different watershed sites. She also takes part in extractions, data analysis, and contributing to the overall fun morale of the lab.

Anna Jones

Undergraduate Student | ENVS

Anna was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio and is majoring in environmental science. She fell in love with research while helping grad students on nectar quality research in the Oak Openings area. On campus, Anna is a part of the Honors College and enjoys going to the university’s sports games. She also loves to hike, travel, and binge watch television shows. 

In the Tfaily lab, Anna helps with soil core processing, freeze drying samples, and SPE. She will begin an incubation experiment measuring gas fluxes and organic matter changes with Tyler this semester. 

Tyler Rodshagen

Accelerated Masters Student| ENVS

Tyler is a sophomore from Seattle, Washington majoring in environmental engineering. His love for the environment stems from outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, and rock climbing. In his free time, Tyler enjoys exercising, cooking, and watching TV shows. In the future, he hopes to study abroad in Denmark, working with renewable energy systems or oceanic ecosystems.

This semester, Tyler will be working on an incubation experiment with Anna, measuring the production of methane by methanogens under a mix of different temperature and substrate treatments of peatland soil.

Paris Clare Stegall

Accelerated Masters | ENVS


Jane Fudyma

Research specialist/Lab manager

Jane was born in New York City, but was swiftly uprooted and raised in Salt Lake City, UT on skiing and outdoors adventures. In 2013 she received a B.S. with honors in General Science, Biology and Chemistry concentrations, and a minor in studio art from Seattle University. She returned to Salt Lake and spent five years working for Inotec, a biotechnology company that uses bacteria to treat and remove inorganics/pollutants from mining waste. Her dual interest in environmental chemistry and microbiology, as well as her last two years at Inotec as a lab manager, landed her a position as a research specialist and lab manager for the Tfaily lab.  When Jane is not working in the lab/field you can find her road tripping to ski in Flagstaff, hiking, rock climbing, and in general being outside.

Jane is involved in two major research projects in the Tfaily lab, a rainforest ecology project at Biosphere 2 and a peatland ecology project in Minnesota. Both projects focus on organic matter transformation and degradation in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, the abiotic and microbial interactions that underlay these organic matter transformations, and implications of climate impact. She is also interested in how viruses impact the soil microbe-organic matter nexus and what triggers viruses to control organic matter changes and microbial responses in various systems. Her research uses a full “omics” approach to understand gene to ecosystem functioning, including analytical molecular, microbiological, geochemical, and isotopic techniques. Jane also oversees independent study student projects and all ongoing laboratory projects.  

Nathalia Graf Grachet

Postdoctoral Researcher

Nathalia is originally from Brazil. She received a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering, and her interests in plant diseases started in her sophomore year when she joined the plant pathology lab. She moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma in 2013 to attend graduate school at Oklahoma State University. She received her M.S. in Entomology and Plant Pathology in 2015 studying the effect of foliar fungicide application on chlorophyll content and yield winter wheat varieties. In August 2019, she received her Ph.D. in Plant Pathology studying plant-pathogen interactions of bermudagrass and the soil-borne fungal pathogens of spring dead spot. Nathalia’s research interests broadened when she attended two computational biology courses at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 2017 and 2018. She learned the basics of Python programming and bioinformatics, and fell in love! She became a certified instructor for the Software and Data Carpentry in the Fall of 2018, and have taught campus-wide workshops in a variety of topics including Python and Unix command line.

Nathalia joined the Tfaily lab in October 2019. Currently, she is developing data analysis pipelines for a variety of research projects in the Tfaily lab, including soil organic matter composition and microbial community of the tropical rainforest at Biosphere 2. She will be developing her our research projects pretty soon. She will apply the modern techniques used in Tfaily’s lab to agricultural systems. She will research the role agricultural management practices play in the microbiome in the soil and in the plant, and how those practices affect soil organic matter degradation and formation.

Hans Gieschen

Undergraduate Student | ENVS

Please allow us to introduce our youngest team member, Hans Gieschen. Hans was born and raised in San Diego, California before coming to the University of Arizona to pursue a degree in Environmental Science. Hans’s love for science started at a young age when he got his first pet frog. Since then, Hans has always had a deep interest in science, animals, and the environment. In the future, Hans would like to travel to the rain forest and conduct research in Spanish speaking countries. Outside of work, some of his interests include basketball, and his fraternity. Hans is a die hard Los Angeles Clippers fan, and is very involved in the Delta Beta chapter of Beta Theta Pi, recently serving as President of Philanthropy.

Hans’ research in the Tfaily lab is centered around comparing abiotic/biotic controls on organic matter degradation and transformation via mass spec data analysis. He is also involved in the B2 rainforest project that focuses on gene to ecosystem organic matter fluxes and transformation.

Jamee Lyon

Undergraduate Student | ENVS & SPS

Jamee is a junior, originally from the suburbs outside of Chicago, majoring in Sustainable Plant Systems with an emphasis in Environmental Horticulture. This program comes from both The School of Plant Sciences and The School of Soil Water and Environmental Sciences. After graduating from the University of Arizona, Jamee plans to attend a five-year graduate program at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona to become a Naturopathic Doctor. In Dr. Tfaily’s lab, she is comparing properties between selected medicinal plants and Sphagnum, a dominating moss in the Northern peatland. Through extraction and with the mass spectrometer, she analyzes the organic compounds and antimicrobial nature of Sphagnum moss and selected medicinal plants.

Halley Hughes

Undergraduate Student | SNRE

Halley Hughes was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. She will attend the University Arizona Honors College in the fall. Halley plans to major in Natural Resources and the Environment with a minor in French. Halley’s love for the environment grew from many hiking adventures and a very passionate biology teacher. She is an avid gardener and has since become very invested in sustainable agriculture.

As part of Dr. Tfaily’s lab, Halley will be performing soil organic matter extractions relating to the tropical rainforest at the Biosphere 2, and helping with incubation experiments to study the effect of temperature on soil organic matter transformations.

Hannah Reichman

Undergraduate Student | ENGR

Hannah was born in Mesa, Arizona and is currently a freshman majoring in Environmental Engineering. Her interest for the environment was initially sparked by her mother’s work for Arizona State University’s sustainability department. She decided to follow an Environmental Engineering route in order to develop more renewable systems and technologies that will contribute to a more sustainable world. Aside from research, Hannah enjoys cooking, binge watching shows, outdoor activities, and traveling. She is looking forward to traveling to Europe for the first time this summer! In the future, she hopes to travel so that she may help implement more sustainable means of technology in developing countries.

Rachel Cruz Perez

REU Student | U. Puerto Rico- Río Piedras

Teverrick Chee

REU Student | Arizona State University

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