Environmental Microbiology Matters

For two-thirds of my life I took for granted the power of the unseen forces of nature unfolding around me. Neither divine nor occult, the microscopic creatures I’m describing are continuously at work in the air we breathe, the water we drink, colonized within us and on us, providing us vital support in our daily lives. Aside from their obvious utility from an anthropocentric viewpoint in fermentations (yay beer!), our digestion and health¬† (probiotics), microorganisms are crucial for the breakdown and turnover of¬† matter and promoting nutrient cycling in each of Earth’s biomes. Microbial activity releases gases, forms rust, and produces life-sustaining nutrients from thin air. Furthering our understanding of these enigmatic creatures will be critical to mitigating or controlling bacterial activity for our own benefit.

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 emissions.