I was first introduced to the microscopic world of microbial ecology as an undergraduate student researcher. Having grown up on the Hudson River in New York, I was immersed in the discussion about the devastating effects of chemical pollutants on ecosystems and the services those ecosystems provide to humans. Hearing the challenges of complex clean-up options, I became fascinated with the idea that microscopic organisms could be used to fix some of the biggest environmental disasters. It was this aspect of microbial ecology that inspired my dissertation work, a collaborative effort between biologists and chemical engineers to design and test novel green solvents and proactively provide strategies for microbial biodegradation.
Out of this work, I began to think of the ecosystems themselves from the microbial perspective. Whenever I fly across the country, I am struck by the influence humans have had on natural ecosystems. Microorganisms in soil and aquatic environments influence all global nutrient cycles and airborne microbial dispersal is a major mechanism interconnecting all of Earth's ecosystems. My postdoctoral work and my current research team at WMU blend these interests to address two major questions:
1. How can microbial metabolic capabilities be harnessed to correct, or proactively prevent, harm to natural ecosystems?
2. As the Anthropocene progresses, how are we changing the ecology of microbial communities and microbial processes, particularly through altered land use and climate change?
We collaborate with engineers, geochemists, chemists and other biologists to address many specific questions related these overarching areas. See more information about ongoing research projects.