Preston, Dr. Michael

Dr. Michael Preston
PhD (University of Toronto), MSc (Trent University), BSc (Hons) (Liverpool John Moores University) Assistant Professor
Email: Phone:
  • Prince George


I am a microbial ecologist with a diverse academic and professional background. In England, I studied community and population ecology before moving to Canada to research the biogeochemistry of wetland soils. I combined my knowledge of the living and physical environment in my doctoral and postdoctoral studies to investigate the impact of climate change on forest and wetland microbial processes. Prior to joining UNBC, I spent five years as an environmental consultant working on projects across Canada. This experience has prepared me to train undergraduate and graduate students for a successful career in industry. 

Research and Expertise

I have broad interests in microbial ecology and study a variety of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, such as forests, peatlands and lakes. I also have interests in applied settings such as managed forests and environmental remediation of industrially degraded sites. Currently, my focus is on the microbial response to human-induced environmental change that has consequences for biogeochemical (nutrient) cycles important for ecosystem health. Specifically, I'm examining the microbial control on soil organic carbon accumulation and decomposition to greenhouse gases. Understanding soil organic carbon dynamics under a changing environment is important as there is potential to exacerbate global warming. But through management soil organic carbon storage could be a viable strategy for climate change mitigation. 

Students are an essential component of my research program. Please contact me via email if you are interested in finding out more about graduate and undergraduate research opportunities. 

Research Fields:
  • Biodiversity/Ecology
  • Climate Change
  • Environment
  • Forestry
  • Natural Resources
Areas of Expertise:

Microbial Ecology, Microbial Communities, Biogeochemistry, Soil Organic Carbon, Greenhouse Gases, Ecosystem Services, Carbon Cycle, Soils, Forests, Wetlands, Lakes

Languages Spoken:
  • English
Currently accepting graduate students
Supervises in:
  • MSc NRES
  • PhD NRES
Available to be contacted by the media as a subject matter expert

Selected Publications

Preston, M.D., Brumell, M., Smenderovac, E., Rantala-Sykes, B., Rumney, R.H.M., Sherman, G., Basiliko, N., Beckett, P. and Hebert, M. 2020. Tree restoration and ecosystem carbon storage in an acid and metal impacted landscape: Chronosequence and resampling approaches. Forest Ecology and Management.

Preston, M.D. and Basiliko, N. 2016. Carbon mineralization in peatlands: does the soil microbial community composition matter? Geomicrobiology Journal, 33 (2): 151-162. 

Haynes, K., Preston, M.D., McLaughlin, J., Webster, K. and Basiliko, N. 2015. Dissimilar bacterial and fungal decomposer communities across rich to poor fen peatlands exhibit functional redundancy. Canadian Journal of Soil Science, 95(3): 219-230.

Fitzpatrick, C.R., Agrawal, A.A., Basiliko, N. Hastings, A.P., Isaac, M.E., Preston, M., Johnson, M.T.J. 2015. The importance of plant genotype and contemporary evolution for terrestrial ecosystem processes. Ecology, 96:2632–2642.

Luke, S., Preston, M.D., Basiliko, N. and Watmough, S.A. 2015. Microbial Communities, Biomass, and Carbon Mineralization in Acidic, Nutrient-Poor Peatlands Impacted by Metal and Acid Deposition. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 226, 1-13.

Pugliese, S., Jones, T., Preston, M.D., Hazlett, P., Tran, H., Basiliko, N. 2014. Wood ash as a forest soil amendment: The role of boiler and soil type on soil property response. Canadian Journal of Soil Science, 94, 621-634.

Larmola, T., Bubier, J.L., Kobyljanec, C., Basiliko, N., Juutinen, S., Humphreys, E., Preston, M.D., Moore, T.R. 2013. Vegetation feedbacks on nutrient addition lead to weaker carbon sink in an ombrotrophic bog. Global Change Biology, 19, 3729-3739. 

Preston, M.D., Smemo, K.A., McLaughlin, J.W. and Basiliko, N. 2012. Peatland microbial communities and decomposition processes in the James Bay Lowlands, Canada. Frontiers in Microbiology, 3:70. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2012.00070.

Preston, M.D., Eimers, M.C. and Watmough, S.A. 2011. Effect of moisture and temperature variation on DOC release from a peatland: conflicting results from laboratory, field and historical data analysis. The Science of the Total Environment, 409, 1235-42.