I am a microbial ecologist broadly interested in understanding what factors shape archael, bacterial, and fungal communities within ecosystems, and how disturbance, both acute and chronic, alters these communities. Specifically, I am interested in understanding how microbial community composition influences ecosystem function, and what role microbial diversity plays in ecosystem functioning. I am interested in using metagenomic techniques to evaluate microbial communities and to identify variation in microbial community composition in response to abiotic and biotic drivers.
Phylogenetic and ecological influences on the primate microbiome
Using multiple species of non-human primates, my research is focused to understand how phylogeny, physiology, and ecological factors influence the primate microbiome.
Precipitation change and plant identity shape microbial communities and their function:
In the last decade areas encompassing pinyon-juniper (PJ) woodlands have experienced some of the most extreme years of drought to date. These droughts have important consequences for PJ woodlands, including changes in plant community composition, changes in the associated soil bacterial and fungal communities, and changes in ecosystem processes such as carbon and nutrient cycling. Using a precipitation manipulation in a PJ woodland in Central New Mexico in conjunction with molecular and ecosystem techniques, my research was focused to answer two main questions:
1. What effect does precipitation change and plant identity (either pinyon or juniper) have on soil microbial communities?
2. What effect does precipitation change and plant identity have on nitrogen cycling?
How does climatic warming alter soil microbial community structure and function
Using a warming experiment at Duke and Harvard Forests, I evaluated how increased temperature altered soil bacterial and fungal abundance and composition. In addition, I examined how warming altered potential extracellular enzymatic activity in the soil and the rate of decomposition. I found that warming altered microbial community structure, but these changes did not scale up to alter rates of decomposition.