- Ph.D., Microbiology, Montana State University, 2011
- B.S., Environmental Science Biology, Southampton College of LIU, 2005
Microbes are important drivers of geochemical transformations in the environment, but because their role is complex it remains poorly understood. My research explores the relationship between microbes and their environment in an effort to understand the microbial role in water treatment, contaminant mobility, nutrient transport, and biogeochemical cycling.
While my research interests are diverse, much of my work focuses on microbe-metal interactions including microbial interactions with iron: one of the most abundant metals on Earth. One of my research areas investigates the contribution of iron-oxidizing bacteria to biogeochemical cycling and nutrient transport. Biologically produced iron oxides are highly reactive and can sequester nutrients such as phosphorous, nitrogen, and organic carbon as well as other metals. Unfortunately, there are many unanswered questions about what environmental factors impact this process and how this association influences the microbes themselves. My research focuses largely on marine iron-oxidizing bacteria found in estuaries, coastal regions, and seamounts, but these interactions are also very important in terrestrial and freshwater environments. As environmental microbes are notoriously difficult to cultivate, I am also interested in using –omics-based techniques such as metagenomics and single cell genomics to develop new enrichment and isolation strategies to study these organisms in the lab. By integrating microbial and geochemical analyses through comparative genomics, laboratory experiments with environmental isolates, and field studies we can begin to answer many critical questions about biological iron oxidation and other microbial processes in the environment.