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Soil Microbial Ecology

Decomposition is one of the most important functions that microbes perform in our environment.  As microbial ecologists, we seek to understand how microbial communities work to recycle inputs in terrestrial environments.  Understanding decomposition and biodegradation is key to developing better solutions for waste disposal, environmental bioremediation, and predicting ecosystem response to perturbations.


Current Projects

Decomposition of Vertebrate Mortalities

There is (microbial) life after death: We are investigating the microbial processes of decomposition of carcasses and cadavers, in order to determine how microbial populations interact to recycle nutrients in these 'hot spot' ecosystems. Funded by NSF.


Biodegradation of Agricultural Plastics

There is a need for biodegradable and bio-based alternatives to non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastics for use in agriculture. Our lab is investigating the impacts of biodegradable plastics on soil ecology and the microbial mechanisms of biodegradation of these new materials. Funded by USDA.

Biodegradable Mulch - Project website


Gemmatimonadetes Ecology

Bacteria belonging to phylum Gemmatimonadetes are common in soils, but poorly understood due to lack of cultured representatives. We're investigating what makes them so successful in the environment.


Conservation Agriculture and Microbial Communities

We're investigating how agricultural practices (e.g. reduced tillage, cover cropping, native forage grasses) influences soil microbial communities and their functions. Funded by USDA.