Microbial Ecology and Ecosystem Function

Our mission is to understand how disturbance from environmental change—ranging from agricultural management to permafrost thaw—affects the function of ecosystems, with a specific emphasis on greenhouse gas production, soil organic matter formation, and nitrogen mineralization.

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?

We achieve this by doing collaborative science investigating how microbial communities interact with and function in their physical, chemical, and biological environment using a mixture of science tools—including high-throughput sequencing of nucleic acids and tracing of chemical transformations with stable isotopes—in a team that fosters a passion for discovery through support and inclusion of diverse people, backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas. See more about how our group functions in our co-created Code of Conduct


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