Program Faculty

Research in my laboratory examines the ecology and applications of microbes in various environments. A common theme is the “unusual appetites” of bacteria, whether in the biodegradation and detoxification of xenobiotic chemicals or natural products, respiration of rare metalloids, or life in frozen tundra soils. We work on the bioexploration, cultivation and characterization of novel bacteria. Our research spans from fundamental projects on the physiology, ecology and taxonomy of bacteria to applications that address the pollution problems facing impacted industrialized and urbanized environments. The major thrust has been on characterizing the physiology and ecology of bacteria that degrade anthropogenic pollutants, such as dioxins and brominated flame retardants. One of the fundamental challenges has been to elucidate the microorganism(s) responsible for degradation of pollutant chemicals in anaerobic environments. The overall goals are to identify the microbial communities responsible for degradation of these chemicals in soils and sediments and while unraveling underlying novel metabolic pathways also discovering new bacterial species and assessing their in situ microbial activity. The knowledge base will lay to foundation for understanding the fate of these compounds in the environment and for the development of technologies for bioremediation of contaminated soils and sediments as well as tools for site assessment and bioremediation monitoring. Essentially, elucidating how microbes come to our rescue in the anthropocene.