I am an environmental microbiologist, investigating how active, dormant and DNA from dead microorganisms interact to maintain diversity and mediate biogeochemical cycling in the environment, linking microscale processes to global scale biogeochemical cycling.

I seek to understand the abiotic controls on microbial activity, growth, dormancy and death and how these physiological cell states relate to diversity, evolution and biogeochemical cycling in the environment. The environments I focus on are microbial dominated, such as the rock hosted life within oceanic crust, Arctic and Antarctic cryptoendoliths ("hidden within rock"), as well as in permafrost and nutrient poor deep marine sediments.   

To carry out my research, I employ a combination of genomic sequencing with culturing, microbial metabolic activity and viability measurements both in situ and in the laboratory. While less than 1% of known microorganisms can be cultivated in the lab and are known to us solely through molecular analyses, this approach results in a more holistic understanding of environmental microbiology than genomic analyses alone.

Currently, as part of my Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia Postdoctoral fellowship, I am investigating the fate of ancient permafrost carbon as it enters the marine environment due to coastal permafrost erosion. 

I have a special interest in environments in which nutrients, energy and biomass are scarce, and life is potentially operating at its limits. The overarching goal of my research is to better understand the cell life cycle strategies and genomic mechanisms that shape microbial community structure and function in such extreme environments. Understanding the limits of life is important on Earth, but also helps inform how and where we look for life elsewhere – in our solar system and beyond. Many of the environments I study, and questions I ask are related to the fascinating field of Astrobiology. See here for a public talk on what we can learn from microorganisms on Earth, to inform the search for life elsewhere.

Past research: 

My research as a NSF CDEBI Postdoctoral fellow at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean sciences employs highly sensitive assays to fluorescently tag microorganisms at the single cell level that are translationally active (making new proteins), actively respiring, and dead and viable cells; I then combine these methods with single cell sorting, to associate genomics with these physiological cell states in the environment.  This project examines questions of microbial activity in deep marine oceanic crust. Please see the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (CDEBI) for more details about this program!

Please feel free to contact me about my research, or any other questions. Please feel free to request PDFs of my publications  ( Link to Google Scholar).