Christopher Penton

Assoc Professor
CISA-Science & Mathmatics
BDI Associate Faculty
Biodesign FAM

Location: POLY

Contact Information
(480) 727-5738


  • Ph.D. Microbial Ecology, Michigan State University
  • M.Sc. Biogeochemistry, University of Florida
  • B.S. Microbiology, University of Florida


Research Interests

Ryan Penton's research concerns changes in functional gene, fungal and bacterial community structure as related to: Artificial warming in Alaska and Oklahoma soils, natural suppression of crop fungal diseases, biochar amendment in agroecosystems,  and nitrogen fixation/cycling. Other interests include improving primer coverage for next-next generation sequencing and high throughput quantitative PCR (qPCR) for functional genes involved in nitrogen and carbon cycling. He is also involved in the development of targeted assays for the identification and quantification of fungal pathogens as related to crop disease. In addition, he is pursuing the relationship between plant phytohormone production and rhizosphere bacterial and fungal community structure in relation to total plant biomass production.



C. Ryan Penton is a microbial ecologist whose research covers a broad range of ecological issues. In particular, Penton focuses on the mechanisms behind suppression of crop disease and how the soil microbiome can be manipulated in order to improve crop production in a sustainable fashion. Along those lines, his research also addresses how the soil microbiome responds to different crop management strategies, thus deciphering strategies that may improve overall soil health. In addition, he is also interested in the nitrogen cycle, particularly denitrification and nitrogen fixation, and how changes in these N-functional communities caused by continuous crop management impact the fate of fertilizer N and the subsequent plant response. His research also addresses changes in soil microbial communities and their functional guilds under climate warming in rangeland and permafrost systems, with a particular interest in how the impacts on nitrogen cycling communities alter N availability as a "latch" for carbon decomposition.

Within the context of agriculture, Penton also researches the impact of biochar addition to varying soils on the soil microbiome under bioenergy crops in order to establish whether biochar serves as a stable carbon input that increases soil fertility. To address these issues Penton utilizes next-generation high-throughput platforms for the targeted sequencing of functional genes as well as shotgun metagenomics, direct culturing, quantitative PCR, and stable isotope probing. His overall goal is to decipher the intimate connections that exist between soil fungi and bacteria and biogeochemical cycling as well as plant disease processes.

His work encompasses collaborative relationships with international partners from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) of Australia and Nanjing Agricultural University (China).