Karis J. Mcfarlane


Portrait of  Karis J. Mcfarlane
  • Title
    Deputy Group Leader, Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry
  • Email
  • Phone
    (925) 423-6285
  • Organization
    Not Available

Research Interests

Karis McFarlane’s research uses radiocarbon to track carbon as it cycles within ecosystems and between ecosystems and the atmosphere. Her research addresses the complex relationship between climate change and the role ecosystems play in the carbon cycle from plot to regional scales. Karis has worked in managed and natural forests, prairie, croplands, and wetlands to investigate the factors influencing the amount and longevity of carbon stored in soil, the transfer of plant carbon into soil, and the source of carbon (new or old) used by soil microorganisms and released back to the atmosphere to improve our understanding and modeling of these complex earth systems.

Research and Professional Experience

2010–present, Earth Scientist, Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory


  • Postdoc Mentor: Katherine Grant (2021-present), Kimber Moreland (2020-present); Kari Finstad (2016–2019), Claire Phillips (2012–2013)
  • Graduate Mentor: Manisha Dolui (UC Merced, 2021-present), Margaret Capoocci (University of Delaware, 2019-present), Alexandra Hedgpeth (UCLA, 2019-present), Nina Zhang (Colorado State, 2016-present), Kimber Moreland (UC Merced, 2018-2021), Allegra Mayer (UC Berkeley, 2017–2021)
  • Undergraduate Mentor: Teacher and Researcher (STAR) Internship Program (2015–2017, 2010); ROTC Program (2015–2016); NNSA Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Internship Program (2013); DOE Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI, 2013, 2022)

Ph.D., Forest Engineering, Oregon State University, 2007

M.S., Forest and Natural Resources Management, SUNY-ESF, 2003

B.S., Environmental Science, DePaul University University, 2001

McFarlane K J, Throckmorton HM, Heikoop JM, Newman BD, Hedgpeth AL, Repasch MN, et al. (2022). Age and chemistry of dissolved organic carbon reveal enhanced leaching of ancient labile carbon at the permafrost thaw zone. Biogeosciences, 19(4), 1211-1223.  doi:10.5194/bg-19-1211-2022.

Kolton M, Weston DJ, Mayali X, Weber PK, McFarlane KJ, Pett-Ridge J, et al. (2022). Defining the Sphagnum Core Microbiome across the North American Continent Reveals a Central Role for Diazotrophic Methanotrophs in the Nitrogen and Carbon Cycles of Boreal Peatland Ecosystems. mBio, 13(1), e03714-03721.  doi:10.1128/mbio.03714-21.

Moreland K, Tian ZY, Berhe AA, McFarlane KJ, Hartsough P, Hart SC, et al. (2021). Deep in the Sierra Nevada critical zone: saprock represents a large terrestrial organic carbon stock. Environmental Research Letters, 16(12), 124059.  doi:10.1088/1748-9326/ac3bfe

Wilson RM, Griffiths NA, Visser A, McFarlane KJ, Sebestyen SD, Oleheiser KC, Bosman S, Hopple AM, Tfaily MM, Kolka RK, Hanson PJ, Kostka JE, Bridgham SD, Keller JK, Chanton JP (2021). Radiocarbon analyses quantify peat carbon losses with increasing temperature in a whole ecosystem warming experiment. Journal of Geophysical Research Biogeosciences,126, e2021JG006511. doi: 10.1029/2021JG006511.

Oerter E, Slessarev E, Visser A, Min KJ, Kan MG, McFarlane KJ, et al. (2021). Hydraulic redistribution by deeply rooted grasses and its ecohydrologic implications in the southern Great Plains of North America. Hydrological Processes, 35(9), e14366. doi:10.1002/hyp.14366

Min K, Slessarev E, Kan M, McFarlane K, Oerter E, Pett-Ridge J, Nuccio E, Berhe AA (2021) Active microbial biomass decreases, but microbial growth potential remains similar across soil depth profiles under deeply- vs. shallow-rooted plants. Soil Biology and Biochemistry: 162, 108401. doi: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2021.108401.

Broek TAB, Ognibene TJ, McFarlane KJ, Moreland KC, Brown TA, Bench G (2021) Conversion of the LLNL CAMS 1 MV biological AMS system to a semi-automated natural abundance 14C spectrometer: system optimization and performance evaluation. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms: 499, 124-132. doi:10.1016/j.nimb.2021.01.022

Finstad K, van Straaten O, Veldkamp E, McFarlane K (2020) Soil carbon dynamics following land use changes and conversion to oil palm plantations in tropical lowlands inferred from radiocarbon. Global Biogeochem. Cycles: 34, e2019GB006461. doi:10.1029/2019GB006461

Slessarev, EW, Nuccio EE, McFarlane KJ, Ramon C, Saha M, Firestone MK, Pett-Ridge J (2020) Quantifying subsoil organic C accumulation under switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) across a soil texture gradient using natural abundance 14C. Global Change Biology Bioenergy. doi: 10.1111/gcbb.12729

McFarlane KJ, Hanson PJ, Iversen CM, Phillips JR, and Brice DJ (2018) Local spatial heterogeneity of Holocene carbon accumulation throughout the peat profile of an ombrotrophic Northern Minnesota bog. Radiocarbon 60(3): 941-962.  https://doi.org/10.1017/RDC.2018.37


Full publication list available here:




  • DOE Office of Science Early Career Fellowship, 2016–present
  • PLS Outstanding Mentor Award, 2017
  • Best Poster Award-AEED, Postdoc Symposium, 2010