David McNear
Associate Professor

Professional Profile

Dr. David McNear is an Associate professor of Rhizosphere Science in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and is responsible for teaching PLS366 Fundamentals of Soil Science in the Fall of every year.  Dr. McNear runs the Rhizolab where his research team investigates the biogeochemical processes occurring at the plant root-soil interface (a.k.a. rhizosphere) over multiple spatial scales, and assesses the influence of these processes on nutrient and heavy metal cycling in managed and unmanaged ecosystems.  By integrating information gained from assessing microbial community structure and function, plant genetics and metabolomics, and soil chemical processes, we aim to unravel the inherent complexity of the rhizosphere to help solve some of the most critical problems facing the World today (climate change, food security, ecosystem integrity).


I am a first generation college student, and like students many in the NRES program, I started out at community college where I earned an Associate’s degree in Life Sciences.  I then transferred to Pennsylvania State University where I earned my B.S. degree in environmental resource management (ERM) with a minor in environmental engineering.  After spending ~ 9 months working for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and a hazardous materials emergency response company I went back to school at Penn State where I earned an M.S. degree in Environmental Pollution Control with a focus in Soil Chemistry.  For my M.S. thesis work I examined the speciation, mobility and environmental impact of lead from bullets in firing range soils at Ft. Indiantown Gap (Annville, PA), one of the largest military staging bases in the country.  I went on to earn my PhD in Environmental Soil Chemistry at the University of Delaware with Dr. Donald Sparks.  My PhD research focused on determining metal speciation in soils and elucidating the mechanisms of metal uptake, tolerance, and hyperaccumulation in the Ni hyperaccumulating plant Alyssum murale.  I earned my PhD in Dec 2006 and joined the faculty in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in Jan 2007.