Kari Finstad

Staff Scientist
Atmospheric, Earth, and Energy Division
Email: finstad1@llnl.gov
Phone: +19254221975


  • Ph.D., Ecosystem Science, University of California, Berkeley, 2016
  • B.A., Environmental Earth Science (high honors), University of California, Berkeley, 2005

Research Interests

My research focuses on identifying and quantifying geochemical and biological processes using stable and radioisotope analyses of organic and inorganic material. Specifically, I am interested in the interactions between climate, minerals, and microbial communities in soil and sediment environments, and how these interactions scale up to the landscape level.

Honors and Awards

  • LLNL Laboratory Directed Research and Development Feasibility Study ($150,000), 2018
  • Carolyn Meek Memorial Scholarship for Soil Science ($18,660), 2015 – 2016
  • NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant ($20,300), 2014 – 2016
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, UC Berkeley, 2015
  • Ecosystem Sciences Summer Grant, UC Berkeley ($3,500), 2015
  • Best Student Speaker, Soil Science Society of America Conference, 2014
  • NASA Earth and Space Sciences Fellowship ($90,000), 2011 – 2014
  • Ramsden Research Fellowship, UC Berkeley ($2,500), 2008


  • Finstad, K., O. van Straaten, E. Veldkamp, K. McFarlane. 2020. Soil carbon dynamics following land use changes and conversion to oil palm plantations in tropical lowlands inferred from radiocarbon. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, vol. 34(9). doi.org/10.1020/2019gb006461.
  • Al-Shayeb B., R. Sachdeva, L. Chen, F. Ward, P. Munk, A. Devoto, C. Castelle, M. Olm, K. Bouma-Gregson, Y. Amano, C. He, B. Brooks, A. Thomas, A. Lavy, P. Matheus-Carnevali, C. Sun, D. Goltsman, M. Borton, T. Nelson, R. Kantor, A. Jaffe, R. Keren, I. Farag, S. Lei, R. Méheust, K. Finstad, R. Amundson, K. Anantharaman, J. Zhou, A. Probst, M. Power, S. Tringe, W. Li, K. Wrighton, S. Harrison, F. Aarestrup, M. Morowitz, D. Relman, J. Doudna, A. Lehours, L. Warren, J. Cate, J. Santini, J. Banfield. 2020. Clades of huge phage from across Earth’s ecosystems. Nature, vol. 578, pp. 425-431. doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2007-4.
  • Pfeiffer, M., C. Latorre, C. Santoro, E. Gayo, R. Rojas, M. Carrevedo, V. McRostie, K. Finstad, A. Heimsath, M. Jungers, R. De Pol-Holz, R. Amundson. 2018. Chronology, stratigraphy and hydrological modelling of extensive wetlands and paleolakes in the hyperarid core of the Atacama Desert during the late Quaternary. Quaternary Science Reviews, vol. 197, pp. 224-245. doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2018.08.001. 
  • Finstad, K., M. Pfeiffer, G. McNicol, M. Tuite, K. Williford, R. Amundson. 2018. A late Quaternary paleoenvironmental record in sand dunes of the northern Atacama Desert, Chile. Quaternary Research, vol. 90(1), pp. 127-138. doi.org/10.1017/qua.2018.20.
  • Finstad, K., A. Probst., B. Thomas, G. Andersen, C. Demergasso, A. Echeverria, R. Amundson, J. Banfield. 2017. Microbial community structure and the persistence of Cyanobacterial populations in salt crusts of the hyperarid Atacama Desert from genome-resolved metagenomics. Frontiers in Microbiology, vol. 8, doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.01435.
  • Finstad, K., M. Pfeiffer, G. McNicol, J. Barnes, C. Demergasso, G. Chong, R. Amundson. 2016. Rates and processes of soil formation in salars. Geoderma, vol. 284, pp. 57-72.           
  • Mambelli, S., P. Brooks, R. Sutka, S. Hughes, K. Finstad, J.M. Pakes, T. Dawson. 2016. High throughput method for simultaneous analysis of N, C, and S stable isotopes and concentrations in organics and soils. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, vol. 30, pp.1743-1753.                                        
  • Hug, L., B. Baker, K. Anantharaman, C. Brown, A. Probst, C. Castelle, C. Butterfield, A. Hernsdorf, Y. Amano, I. Kotaro, Y. Suzuki, N. Dudek, D. Relman, K. Finstad, R. Amundson, B. Thomas, J. Banfield. 2016. A new view of the tree of life. Nature Microbiology, doi:10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.48.
  • Finstad, K., M. Pfeiffer, R. Amundson. 2014. Hyperarid soils and the Soil Taxonomy. Soil Science Society of America Journal, vol. 78(6), pp. 1845-1851.        
  • Oerter, E., K. Finstad, J. Schaefer, G. Goldsmith, T. Dawson, R. Amundson. 2014. Oxygen isotope fractionation effects in soil water via interaction with cations (Mg, Ca, K, Na) adsorbed to phyllosilicate clay minerals. Journal of Hydrology, vol. 515, pp. 1-9.
  • Finstad, K., B.L. Ingram, P. Schweikhardt, K. Lightfoot, E. Luby, G. Coles. 2013. New insights about the construction and use of shell mounds from the geochemical analysis of mollusks: an example from the greater San Francisco Bay. Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 40(6), pp. 2648-2658.