Environmental Microbiology Matters

The last decade has incited interest in climate change due to popular films by top political figures (e.g., “An Inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore) and an increasing awareness of the toll the activity of billions of people can have on our environment. However, these popular movies often neglect the billions and even trillions of tiny organisms whose activity is largely responsible for a balanced climate: microbes. Many microorganisms are important for catalyzing key geochemical cycles in the environment, many of which release gases responsible for climate change as a by-product of their activity. Understanding how human behavior is altering current microbial activity is required to mitigate or control bacterial activity for our benefit.

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Hence, my current research interests involve theoretical and applied aspects of nitrogen cycling, fungi, and interconnections between fungi and bacteria involved in N-cycling. I utilize experimental, molecular, and computational approaches to investigate the diverse groups of fungi and bacteria involved in this key environmental process in order to learn who is contributing most to greenhouse gas production, the fungi or bacteria?