Microorganisms are the Earth`s firstborn. They were teeming on the land and in the seas for billions of years before the evolution of plants and animals, and their diversity is staggering. Every pinch of soil contains billions of microbes whose activities regulate terrestrial nutrient cycles and influence the evolution of our biosphere. Despite their importance many aspects of soil microbial communities are still a mystery and soil remains a fertile habitat for discovery. My research makes use of genomic tools to examine the microbial communities that live in soils, to explore their diversity, and to delineate the mechanisms by which they influence environmental processes in terrestrial ecosystems.
My research program examines the ecological significance of microbial diversity in soils. My work focuses on the exploration of microbial diversity, and relationships between microbial diversity, environmental characteristics, and ecosystem processes. My program has a growing focus on genetic diversity within populations and we are currently examining how geographical and environmental factors impact bacterial population structure in soils at landscape and regional scales.
CSS1120: Microbes, the Earth, and Everything
This course provides an introduction to biology through the lens of microbiology, ecology, and evolution. Students investigate the processes that sustain our biosphere, explore the impact of microorganisms on humanity, and examine the unifying principles of life.
CSS6740: Environmental Genomics
Genomics opens new avenues for exploring interactions between organisms and their environment. This course focuses on the use of genomic tools to provide insight on processes occurring at individual, population, and ecosystem scales which govern the response of biological systems to environmental change.
CSS6840: Topics in Soil Microbial Ecology
This seminar course reviews current and groundbreaking literature in soil microbial ecology with topics that encompass: microbial biogeography and diversity, biogeochemistry, microbial feedbacks on plant communities, gene exchange and evolution in soils, soil microbial genomics, bioremediation, and relationships between community structure & ecological function in soils.
In collaboration with the Cornell Institute for Biology Teachers and other faculty at Cornell I organize and teach a summer workshop for high school science teachers. The workshop, "The Microbial Earth", is a week long laboratory based experience that focuses on the role of microorganisms in the natural world. The workshop is designed to provide teachers with practical tools and open ended laboratory exercises from the microbial world that they can use to get their students excited about science.