Colleen M Iversen

Senior Staff Scientist

About me

I am an ecosystem ecologist who uses a variety of field and laboratory techniques to understand and predict how ecosystems are shaped by climatic change. Specifically, I work at the root-soil interface to investigate how atmospheric and climatic change alters belowground carbon and nutrient cycling.

My science takes me to a number of interesting and beautiful ecosystems from bogs to temperate forests to Arctic tundra, and I lead a team that curates the largest root trait database in the world, FRED

Please see and for more information! 

Recent publications of interest

Bergman J, Weigelt A, van der Plas F, Laughlin DC, Kuyper TW, Guerrero-Ramirez N, Valverde-Barrantes OJ, Bruelheide H, Freschet GT, Iversen CM, Kattge J, McCormack ML, Meier IC, Rillig MC, Roumet C, Semchenko M, Sweeney CJ, van Ruijven J, York LM, Mommer L. 2020. The fungal collaboration gradient dominates the root economics space in plantsScience Advances 6: eaba3756. 

Iversen CM, Bolton WR, Rogers A, Wilson CJ, Wullschleger SD. 2020. Building a culture of safety and trust in team scienceEos 101. 

Malhotra A, Brice D, Childs J, Graham JD, Hobbie EA, Vander Stel H, Feron SC, Hanson PJ, Iversen CM. 2020. Peatland warming strongly increases fine-root growthPNAS 117: 17627 - 17634. Highlighted by Science Magazine, and also here by ORNL!

Iversen CM. 2019. New Phytologist Associate Editor ProfileNew Phytologist 223: 530 - 531. 

Iversen CM, Childs J, Norby RJ, Ontl TA, Kolka RK, Brice DJ, McFarlane KJ, Hanson PJ. 2018. Fine-root growth in a forested bog is seasonally dynamic, but shallowly distributed in nutrient-poor peat. Plant and Soil 424: 123-143.

McCormack ML, Powell AS, Iversen CM. 2018. Better plant data at the root of ecosystem models. Eos 99:

Iversen CM, McCormack ML, Powell AS, Blackwood CB, Freschet GT, Kattge J, Roumet C, Stover DB, Soudzilovskaia NA, Valverde-Barrantes OJ, van Bodegom PM, Violle C. 2017. Viewpoints: A global Fine-Root Ecology Database to address belowground challenges in plant ecology. New Phytologist 215: 15-26.

McCormack ML, Guo D, Iversen CM, Chen W, Eissenstat DM, Fernandez CW, Li L, Ma C, Ma Z, Poorter H, Reich PB, Zadworny M, Zanne A. 2017. Viewpoints: Building a better foundation: Improving root-trait measurements to understand and model plant and ecosystem processes. New Phytologist 215: 27-37.

Zhu Q, Iversen CM, Riley WJ, Slette IJ, Vander Stel HM. 2016. Root traits explain observed tundra vegetation nitrogen uptake patterns: Implications for trait-based land models. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 121: 3101-3112.

Iversen CM, Sloan VL, Sullivan PF, Euskirchen ES, McGuire AD, Norby RJ, Walker AP, Warren JM, Wullschleger SD. 2015. The unseen iceberg: Plant roots in arctic tundra (Tansley Review). New Phytologist 205: 34-58.

McCormack ML, Dickie IA, Eissenstat DM, Fahey TJ, Fernandez CW, Guo D, Helmisaari H-S, Hobbie EA, Iversen CM, Jackson RB, Leppälammi-Kujansuu J, Norby RJ, Phillips RP, Pregitzer KS, Pritchard SG, Rewald B, Zadworny M. 2015. Redefining fine roots improves understanding of below-ground contributions to terrestrial biosphere processes (Tansley Review). New Phytologist 207: 505-518.

Warren, JM, Hanson PJ, Iversen CM, Kumar J, Walker AP, Wullschleger SD. 2015. Root structural and functional dynamics in terrestrial biosphere models – Evaluation and recommendations (Tansley Review). New Phytologist 205: 59-78.


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Highly Cited Researcher 2019, Web of Science Group, Clarivate Analytics​​ (2019)
‘In recognition of exceptional research performance demonstrated by production of multiple highly cited papers that rank in the top 1% for field and year in Cross-Field.’

Science Communicator Award, UT-Battelle Awards Night (2019)
‘In recognition of Colleen’s many contributions to science communication and outreach, and to her ability to present science in a compelling manner to audiences of all ages.'
Director’s Award for Outstanding Individual Accomplishment in Mission Support, UT-Battelle Awards Night (2019)
‘Among the many achievements recognized at the 2019 UT-Battelle Awards Night, yours was selected as an exceptional contribution to our success.'
Inaugural cohort, New Voices in Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2018 - present)
'The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are launching the 'New Voices in Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine' initiative to identify outstanding early-career science, engineering, and medicine (SEM) leaders. They will engage in communicating the evidence base for addressing national and global challenges to provide new perspectives on issues of importance to the community represented by the National Academies, and to help identify ways to expand the diversity of expertise that is brought to all of the Academies' convening and advisory activities.'
Early Career Fellow of the Ecological Society of America (2017 - 2021)
'Elected for her leadership and creativity in linking experimentation and modeling to advance ecological understanding of the influence of fine plant roots on the fate of vast pools of carbon and nutrients held in the soils of diverse biomes.'
Stanley I. Auerbach Early-Career Award for ​Excellence in Environmental Sciences (2012)
​Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Distinguished Achievement Award for Post-Graduate Research (2010)
Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory