Controlled environment mesocosms (“rockubators”) located in the Desert Biome have been developed to study influence of plants and microorganisms on rock weathering and soil formation (NSF EAR 1023215). Each of six Plexiglas mesocosms (168.91 cm length x 96.04 cm height x 75.25 cm width) includes three chambers: above ground chamber exposed to light; medium chamber with 48 experimental columns (30 x 5 cm internal diameter); and bottom chamber holding containers for collection of drainage from the columns. Mesocosms are connected in parallel to a double air purification system capable of delivering about 1L air sec-1 per module (Germguardian, AC4850CAPT Digital 3-in-1 Hepa Air Purifier System). Water is supplied through a 140 mL polypropylene syringe (eNasco). Both air and water supply is designed to prevent introduction of any outside contamination into the mesocosms.  To facilitate manipulation of the samples inside the mesocosms they are equipped with gloved access ports. Mesocosm design allows to conduct experiments that require control and manipulation of plant environment.

Contact: Dr. Katerina Dontsova


Model Systems


2017 (Published)

Ecosystem Composition Controls the Fate of Rare Earth Elements during Incipient Soil Genesis . Zaharescu, D. G., Burghelea, C. I., Dontsova, K., Presler, J. K., Maier, R. M., Huxman, T., Domanik, K. J., Hunt, E. A., Amistadi, M. K., Gaddis, E. E., Palacios-Menendez, M. A., Vaquera-Ibarra, M. O. and Chorover, J. (2017): Scientific Reports 7: 43208.

2015 (Published)

Mineral nutrient mobilization by plants from rock: influence of rock type and arbuscular mycorrhiza . Burghelea, C., Zaharescu, D. G., Dontsova, K., Maier, R., Huxman, T., Chorover J. (2015): Biogeochemistry 124(1): 187-203.

2014 (Published)

Impact of organic carbon on weathering and chemical denudation of granular basalt . Dontsova, K., Zaharescu, D., Henderson, W., Verghese, S., Perdrial, N., Hunt, E., Chorover, J. (2014): Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 139: 508–526.