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Black Hills State University faculty, left to right, Dr. Mike Zehfus, professor of chemistry; Dr. David Bergmann, assistant professor of biology; Dr. Mark Gabel, director of the herbarium; and Dr. Brian Smith, professor of biology; authored a paper that was highlighted in an issue of the scientific journal Western North American Naturalist as one of the best in the nation.

A paper by Black Hills State University faculty and a BHSU student was highlighted in an issue of the scientific journal Western North American Naturalist as one of four outstanding natural history papers for 2009.

Grass Rhizosheaths: Associated Bacterial Communities and Potential for Nitrogen Fixation was authored by four BHSU faculty members and one BHSU undergraduate student. The authors included, Dr. David Bergmann, assistant professor of biology; Dr. Mike Zehfus, professor of chemistry; the late Linda Zierer, who was pursuing a biology degree at BHSU, Dr. Brian Smith, professor of biology; and Dr. Mark Gabel, director of the herbarium.

The paper describes the study of the rhizosheath, a dense cylinder of soil particles adhering to roots, of grasses from sand dunes in northwestern South Dakota. The authors discovered that some of the bacteria inhabiting the rhizosheath are capable of nitrogen fixation, thus potentially providing an advantage for the plants in the nutrient poor soils of the sand dune areas.

The journal wrote the awards were to “celebrate...achievements in creative and meaningful research, insightful interpretation, and articulate writing.”