WELCOME TO THE ERNAKOVICH LAB AT UNH!

Microbial Ecology and Ecosystem Function

We investigate how microbial communities affect carbon cycling and nutrient turnover by linking shifts in microbial communities and their physiology to changes in ecosystem processes, such as carbon cycling and nutrient turnover. 

A bit of background

Despite recent advances in techniques to analyze "who's there" in microbial communities, the field of microbial ecology is still in its infancy. Although there are some exceptions, we still lack an understanding of how microorganisms affect ecosystem processes. Due to rapid changes in sequencing technology, we now know that soils harbor a vast repository of microbial diversity, and we are now able to probe deeper into connections between microbail communities, their physiology, and ecosystem function. We aim to explore:

  • how and whether microbial diversity affects ecosystem process rates;
  • how abiotic and biotic factors dictate the assembly of microbial communities;
  • the niche space of different microorganisms (including temperature and subtrate niches); and 
  • how physiological plasticity affects ecosystem processes.

How do we do it?

In order to probe the relationships between microbial communities and the ecosystem processes they mediate, we use observations from natural and managed ecosystems and manipulative experiments to target both trends and then mechanisms behind them.  We merge genomic approaches with stable isotopes and microbial functional analysis.