Denise Finney
Denise Finney

Denise Finney

Our lab studies the benefits (AKA ecosystem services) humans derive from the environment. Through studies of plants, soils, and their interactions, we work to identify and test ways to manage human-stewarded ecosystems like agricultural fields to optimize services such as crop production and limit disservices such as water and air pollution.

Dr. Finney’s lab studies the benefits humans derive from the environment. Our work uses plant community ecology, soil ecology, and biogeochemistry to identify and test ecologically-based approaches to managing agricultural fields, urban green spaces and other human-stewarded ecosystems. It is well-known in ecology, for example, that as biodiversity increases, so do important ecosystem functions such as primary production. Current research in the lab is investigating ways to increase crop diversity in agriculture and, in turn, the ecosystem functions that support food production and reduce environmental pollution from agriculture.

Research News

Dr. Denise Finney, Associate Professor of Biology, received the 2022 Teaching Excellence Environmental Award • Biology • Ursinus

Finney lab receives grant to research crop diversity effects on soil carbon - READ MORE.

Finney lab working with Penn State researchers to develop an on-line nitrogen decision support tool for organic farmers – READ MORE.




  • BA, Hiram College, Hiram, OH
  • MS, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
  • PhD, Penn State University, State College, PA


Biology of the Neotropics (BIO/ENV-320)

Common Intellectual Experience II (CIE-200)

General Ecology (BIO/ENV-415W)
Plant Biology (BIO/ENV-334)
Issues in Ecology and Evolution (BIO-101L)
The Nature of Food (BIO/ENV-234)

Research Interests

Biodiversity-ecosystem service relationship
Nitrogen management
Carbon cycling
Soil health

Recent Work

Finney, D.M., S. Garritano†, and M. Kenwood†. 2021. Forage species identity shapes soil biota in a temperate agroecosystem. Sustainability. 13(10):5689. doi: 10.3390/su13105689.

Baraibar, B., C. White, M. Hunter, D.M. Finney, M.E. Barbercheck, J.P. Kaye, W.S. Curran, J. Bunchek, and D. Mortensen. 2021. Weeds in cover crops: context and management considerations. Agriculture. 11:193. doi: 10.3390/agriculture11030193.

White, C.M., D.M. Finney, A.R. Kemanian, and J.P. Kaye. 2020. Modeling the contributions of nitrogen mineralization to yield of corn. Agronomy Journal. doi: 10.1002/agj2.20474

Cloutier, M.L., E. Murrell, M. Barbercheck, J. Kaye, D. Finney, I. García-González, and M.A. Bruns. 2020. Fungal community shifts in soils with varied cover crop treatments and edaphic properties. Scientific Reports 10:6198. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-63173-7

White, C.M., D.M. Finney, B.A. Bradley, and J.P. Kaye. 2019. Predicting Cover Crop Nitrogen Content with a Handheld NDVI Meter. Agricultural and Environmental Letters 4(1):190031. doi:10.2134/ael2019.08.0031

Kaye, J.P., D.M. Finney, C.M. White, B.A. Bradley, M.E. Schipanski, M. Alonso-Ayuso, M.C. Hunter, M. Burgess, C. Mejia. 2019. Managing nitrogen through cover crop species selection in the U.S. mid-Atlantic. PLoS ONE 14(4):e0215448. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0215448

Baraibar, B., C.M. White, M.E. Barbercheck, J. Bunchek, W. Curran, D.M. Finney, M. Hunter, J.P. Kaye, and D.A. Mortensen. 2018. Growing degree days and cover crop type explain weed biomass in winter cover crops. Agronomy for Sustainable Development. 38:65. doi:10.1007/s13593-018-0543-1

Finney, D.M., E.G. Murrell, C.M. White, B. Baraibar, M.E. Barbercheck, B.A. Bradley, S. Cornelisse, M.C. Hunter, J.P. Kaye, C.A. Mullen, D.A. Mortensen. 2017. Ecosystem services and disservices are bundled in simple and diverse cover cropping systems. Agricultural and Environmental Letters 2:170033. doi:10.2134/ael2017.09.0033

Finney, D.M., J.S. Buyer, and J.P. Kaye. 2017. Living cover crops have immediate impacts on soil microbial community structure and function. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 72(4):361-373. doi:10.2489/jswc.72.4.361

Schipanski, M.E., M.E. Barbercheck, E.G. Murrell, J. Harper, D.M. Finney, J.P. Kaye, D.A. Mortensen, R.G. Smith. 2017. Balancing multiple objectives in organic feed and forage cropping systems. Agriculture, Ecosystems, and Environment. 239: 219-227. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2017.01.019

White, C.M., B.A. Bradley, T. DuPont, D.M. Finney, D. Hartman, M. Hautau, J. LaChance, and J.P. Kaye. 2017. Managing the tradeoff between nitrogen supply and retention with cover crop mixtures. Agriculture, Ecosystems, and Environment. 237:121-133. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2016.12.016

Finney, D.M. and J.P. Kaye. 2017. Functional diversity in cover crop polycultures increases multifunctionality of an agricultural system. Journal of Applied Ecology. 54(2):509-517. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12765

Murrell, E.G., M.E. Schipanski, D.M. Finney, M.C. Hunter, M. Burgess, J.C. LaChance, B. Baraibar, C.M. White, D.A. Mortensen, and J.P. Kaye. 2017. Achieving diverse cover crop mixtures: Effects of planting date and seeding rate. Agronomy Journal. 109(1):259-271. doi:10.2134/agronj2016.03.0174

White, C.M., A. Kemanian, D.M. Finney, and J.P. Kaye. 2016. A model-data fusion approach for predicting cover crop nitrogen supply to corn. Agronomy Journal. 108(6):2527-2540. doi:10.2134/agronj2016.05.0288

Finney, D.M., C.M. White, and J.P. Kaye. 2016. Biomass production and carbon:nitrogen ratio influence ecosystem services from diverse cover crop mixtures. Agronomy Journal. 108(1):39-52. doi:10.2134/agronj15.0182

Finney, D.M., S.E. Eckert, and J.P. Kaye. 2015. Drivers of nitrogen dynamics in ecologically based agriculture revealed by long-term, high frequency field measurements. Ecological Applications. 25(8):2210-2227. doi:10.1890/14-1357.1

LaChance, J., M. Hunter, and D. Finney. 2015. Post-its and priorities: A participatory exercise for understanding perspectives of diverse stakeholders. Journal of Extension. 53(5):5TOT2.

Schipanski, M., M. Barbercheck, M. Douglas, D.M. Finney, K. Haider, A. Kemanian, J. Kaye, D. Mortensen, M. Ryan, J. Tooker and C. White. 2014. A conceptual framework for evaluating multifunctionality of cover crops in agroecosystems. Agricultural Systems. 125:12-22. doi:10.1016/j.agsy.2013.11.004