Academic Positions

  • Present 2012

    Assistant Research Professor

    Northern Arizona University, Department of Biological Sciences

  • Present 2012

    Research Associate

    Northern Arizona University, Merriam-Powel Center for Environmental Research

  • 2012 2008

    Adjunct Faculty

    Northern Arizona University, School of Forestry

  • 2009 2008

    Research Associate

    University of California Santa Cruz, Department of Biology and Evolutionary Biology

  • 2008 2005

    Visiting Scholar

    Indiana University, Biology Department

  • 2005 2002

    Plant Ecologist

    USDA-Agriculture Research Service, Reno, NV.


  • Ph.D. 2001

    Ph.D., Dissertation: Invasion and impacts of nitrogen-fixing shrubs Genista monspessulana and Cytisus scoparius in grasslands of Washington and coastal California.

    Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley.

  • M.S.1996

    M.S., Thesis: Relationships between forest ecosystem structure, function and nitrogen cycling in New Mexico and Oregon.

    School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University.

  • B.A.1990

    B.A., Environmental Studies with emphasis in Natural Resource Management

    University of California, Santa Barbara.


  • 2014-2017
    Lead PI: Legacy effects and feedbacks in the interactions between an invasive shrub and a native tree.
    National Science Foundation- Division of Environmental Biology: $719,00.
  • 2011-2015
    Co-PI: Life sciences strengthened by a spectrum of world views.
    National Science Foundation-Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program: $735,400.
  • 2013
    Lead PI: Using nano-DESI mass spectrometry to detect sparteine in mineral soils following invasion of the nitrogen-fixing shrub Cytisus scoparius.
    Environmental Molecular Science Lab: No-cost sample analysis.
  • 2013-2015
    Co-PI: Effects of mechanical thinning in Ponderosa pine forests on soil insect food webs: implications for litter decomposition and nutrient release.
    Mission Research Program, NAU: $42,860.
  • 2011-2014
    Co-PI: How do pile age and season of burn influence combustion and fire effects?
    USFS Joint Fire Sciences Program: $476,893; $34,674 to NAU.
  • 2011-2014
    Lead PI: Control of Scot's broom in forest plantations in Fort Lewis, WA.
    US Army Corps of Engineers: $48,465.
  • 2007-2010
    Co-PI: Control of Scotch broom and forest regeneration.
    The Nature Conservancy of Washington: $175,000.
  • 2000
    NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant
  • 1998-2000
    Marin Community Foundation Grant
  • 1998
    Department of Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley, Summer Research Grant
  • 1996-1997
    Heckard Fund Fellow, UC Berkeley Herbarium

Undergraduate Research Grants

  • 2012-2014
    National Science Foundation - Undergraduate Research Mentoring Faculty mentor
    • Dwight Clark, Effects of thinning treatments and residual slash piles on herpetofauna abundance in ponderosa pine forests of northern Arizona. $15000.
    • Jerod Benefield, Macroarthropod community responses to mechanical thinning of ponderosa pine stands in northern Arizona, USA. $15000.
  • 2010-2012
    Hooper Undergraduate Research Award Faculty mentor
    • Brandon Merz, Effects of invasive species on soil chemistry. $3490.
    • Shannon Madden, Effects of ponderosa pine forest management on litter & soil arthropods. $3486.
    • Kari Potter, Do mutualisms affect invasion success? Mycorrhizal associations of an invasive species. $3200.
    • Scott Francis, Recruitment of pinyon pine in the face of drought and climate change. $3000.
  • 2010
    NSF-IGERT Undergraduate Fellowship Faculty mentor
    Scott Francis, Recruitment of pinyon pine in the face of drought and climate change. $5000.
  • 2010
    Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology Faculty mentor
    Scott Francis. Potential effects of quinolizidine alkaloids in Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) on soil microbial processes. $10,000.
  • Karen Haubensak

    Karen Haubensak - Lab principal

  • Derek Uhey

    Derek Uhey

    Is characterizing soil food web assemblages in sites throughout northern Arizona.

  • Geoffry Colvin

    Geoffrey Colvin

    After working on developing sparteine extraction methods in the lab for his senior thesis, Geoffrey is now focusing on the soil-based legacy of allelopathy in invasions.

  • Emily Fuld

    Emily Fuld

    Works on characterization of the soil food web in northern Arizona forest sites that have been mechanically thinned to decrease probability of wildfire.

  • Jerod Benefield

    Jerod Benefield

    Examined the effects of forest thinning treatments in northern Arizona on the soil and litter macroarthropod community.

  • Brandon Merz

    Brandon Merz

    Brandon was awarded a Hooper grant to examine the soil chemistry changes associated with Douglas fir growth following Scotch broom removal (download presentation).

  • Amanda Knauf

    Amanda Knauf

    Worked on a litter decomposition experiment under a drought scenario in the greenhouse, focusing on the role of soil arthropods.

Research Projects

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    Impacts and legacy effects of Scotch broom, Cytisus scoparius

    Since 1998, Dr. Ingrid Parker of UC Santa Cruz and I have been collaborating on studies of the nitrogen-fixing invasive species, Cytisus scoparius (or "Scotch broom"). This invader can increase soil nitrogen availability while simultaneously reducing the growth of some plants (Haubensak and Parker 2004). We have some evidence that this growth-prohibiting effect may be due to production of alkaloids by Cytisus.

    The main focus of this project is to parse the positive versus negative effects of Cytisus on forest soils, and what those effects mean for regeneration of Douglas-fir forests. Our work has been significantly driven by Dr. Parker's awesome graduate student Sara Grove whose dissertation is focused on how Cytisus disrupts the mutualism between Douglas-fir and its ectomycorrhizal partners.

    We were recently awarded an NSF grant to examine the direct and indirect pathways of effect of Cytisus' soil legacy, and to quantify how that legacy changes over time. Please contact me if you would like to join our project.

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    The role of the soil food web in ecosystem function

    I am collaborating with Drs Rich Hofstetter and Matt Bowker in the School of Forestry to examine the links and feedbacks among soil food webs, soils, and plant responses to management and climate change. In one project, we are working to understand the effects of tree thinning of ponderosa pine stands on soil and litter arthropods, and the connections to litter decomposition and nutrient release. Mechanical thinning of forests is a management strategy being used all over forests of the western US to minimize the possibility of wildfire. Our objective is to understand how this management strategy affects soil biota and the understory vegetation that responds strongly to tree thinning. See "Other Projects/Collaborations" below for other projects related to this one.

    In the second project, we are beginning to examine how the functioning of the soil food web – particularly with respect to soil carbon storage – responds to a warming and drying climate in the southwest. Others have demonstrated that soil carbon pools should decline with climate change in semiarid systems; we want to understand the contribution of soil fauna to the mechanisms of such loss. We are working with Ph.D. student Mike Remke and undergraduate Amanda Knauf to first establish in the greenhouse the effect of arthropod presence/absence on root litter decomposition.

Other Collaborations & Projects

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    Herps in northern Arizona

    I'm collaborating with Dr. Erika Nowak, a herpetologist here at NAU, to understand the effects of pile burns and tree thinning on native herps. We are co-mentoring undergraduate Dwight Clark (since 2012) who has been trapping and surveying herps in thinned versus untreated stands of Ponderosa pine in Centennial Forest. Click here for Dwight’s talk that he presented at the Joint Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Society and the Wildlife Society in Pinetop, AZ, Feb 2014.

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    Cheatgrass invasion in the Great Basin

    For my post-doctoral stint, I worked with Carla D'Antonio (who was also my Ph.D. advisor -- a 2-for-1!!) in the Great Basin, asking questions about cheatgrass invasion:

    • How do native species recover following wildfire and is recovery associated with soil properties? Download PDF
    • As cheatgrass invades into marginal habitat, does its growth respond? Are there suggestions that cheatgrass reduces AMF in soil as it invades? Download PDF
    • How is cheatgrass invasion affected by soil crust disturbance and presence of shrubs? (manuscript in progress; email me for a draft)
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    Grazing effects on soil food webs and ecosystem function

    I also worked with two ecologists at UW Madison, Drs. Claudio Gratton and Randy Jackson, examining cattle grazing effects on ecosystems and how those are mediated by the soil food web (manuscript in revision; please email me for a draft).

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    Effects of pile burning on soil processes

    I'm collaborating with two fire ecologists, Dr. Clint Wright at the Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory (USFS - PNW Research Station) and Dr. Zander Evans of the Forest Guild to understand the effects of pile burn age and season of burn on soil processes like nutrient availability, microbial activity, and soil C storage.

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    NSF - Undergraduate Research Mentoring

    Dr. Nancy Johnson and I were awarded a $700,000 NSF grant in 2010 to help Native Americans and other underrepresented students do scientific research. Dr. Johnson founded the program in 2000 and has successfully gotten it re-funded through four grant cycles. The program funds undergraduates to work with faculty mentors on cutting-edge research. I joined the program in 2010 and am currently directing it.

Persistence of a soil legacy following removal of a nitrogen-fixing invader

Grove, S., I. M. Parker, and K. A. Haubensak
Paper Biological Invasions 17:2621-2631

A meta-analysis of management effects on forest carbon storage

Kalies, E. L., K. A. Haubensak, and A. J. Finkral
Paper In review in PLOSone (contact Dr. Haubensak for draft)

Plant, anthropod, and soil microbial community response to legacy of rotational and continuous grazing

Haubensak, K. A., R. D. Jackson and C. Gratton
Paper In revision in Basic and Applied Ecology

A comparison of Bromus tectorum growth and mycorrhizal colonization from salt desert and sagebrush seed sources and soil

Haubensak, K. A., C. M. D'Antonio, Saundra Embry and Robert Blank
Paper Rangeland Ecology and Management 67:275-284

Direct and indirect effects of allelopathy in the soil legacy of an exotic plant invasion

Grove, S., K. A. Haubensak, and I. M. Parker
Paper Plant Ecology 213:1869-1882

The importance of nitrogen-fixation for an invader of coastal California grassland

Haubensak, K. A. and C. M. D.' Antonio
Paper Biological Invasions 13:1275-1282

Testing disturbance, seeding time, and soil amendments for establishing native warm-season grasses in nonnative cool-season pastures

Doll, J. E., E. L. Bouressa, K. A. Haubensak
Paper Restoration Ecology 19:1-8

Effects of fire and environmental variables on plant structure and composition in grazed salt desert shrublands of the Great Basin (USA)

Haubensak, K. A., C. M. D.' Antonio, and D. Keller
Paper Journal of Arid Environments 73:643-650

Soil fertility, heterogeneity, and microbes as drives of plant community structure and function

Reynolds, H. and K. A. Haubensak
Paper Applied Vegetation Science 12:33-44. Nominated for AVS Editor's Award, 2009

Restoration of a coastal California grassland after invasion by nitrogen-fixing shrubs French broom (Genista monspessulana) amd Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius)

Haubensak, K. A. and C. M. D.' Antonio
Paper Ecological Restoration 24(2):93-99

Impacts of invading N-fixing shrubs in grasslands of California and Washington

Haubensak, K. A., C. M. D.' Antonio, and J. Alexander
Paper Weed Technology 18:1475-1479

Soil changes accompanying invasion of the exotic shrub Cytisus scoparius in glacial outwash praries of western Washington [USA]

Haubensak, K. A. and I. M. Parker
Paper Plant Ecology 175:71-79

Influences of chloroform exposure time and soil water content on C and N release in forest soils

Haubensak, K. A., S. C. Hart, and J. M. Stark
Paper Soil Biology and Biochemistry 34:1549-1562

Comparative pollinator limitation of two non-native shrubs: do mutualisms influence invasions?

Paker, I. M. and K. A. Haubensak
Paper Oecologia 130:250-258

Pollination of Cytisus scoparius and Genista monspessulana, two invasive shrubs in California

Parker, I. M., A. Engel, K. A. Haubensak, and K. Goodell
Paper Madrono 49:25-32

Regulation of nitric oxide emissions from forest and rangeland soils of western North America

Stark, J. M., D. R. Smart, S. C. Hart, and K. A. Haubensak
Paper Ecology 83(8):2278-2292

Community and ecosystem impacts of introduced species

D'Antonio, C. M., and K. A. Haubensak
Paper Fremontia 26(4):13-18
  • Fall 2013


    The belowground subsystem - the soil - is teeming with life and all the associated complexities. In this course we will examine all the interesting links between what happens belowground and what we see aboveground. We will examine biodiversity but focus especially on function - what organisms in the soil do and why it matters.

    We will spend part of the semester learning about the physical and chemical soil environment but then focus on the biology of the soil. We will read from a great textbook (The Biology of Soil by Richard Bardgett) and have discussions and lecture in the classroom.

    Practical aspects:

    We will learn about how to test soils - chemically, biologically and physically. What are the most important tests and why? Our test medium will be compost created on the NAU campus.

  • Fall 2015

    FIELD ECOLOGY OF SOILS - co-taught with Matt Bowker in Forestry

    stay tuned!!!