Microbial Ecology

Bacteria are the most diverse and versatile creatures on Earth, and they largely control the rates at which elements cycle in the environment. Although they are microscopic, the mass of all microbes is equivalent that of all plants. Ecologists have long been interested in microbes, but have lacked the proper tools to observe them in detail. That has now changed with the advent of molecular and isotopic techniques.
     One of our specialty areas is the microbial ecology of rusty roots. Wetland plant roots are often encrusted with rusty-red iron oxide minerals that harbor bacteria capable of using iron to gain energy. We are interested in how plants, iron-eating bacteria and iron minerals interact because it affects methane-producing bacteria, and therefore rates of global warming. A second area of interest is the effect of elevated CO2 on microbial community composition and microbial activity.