Whether free-living in extremely diverse communities in the ocean or residing solitarily in highly specialized tissues of a host organism, microbes exert an immense impact on the way nutrients are acquired, sequestered, recycled and distributed in natural systems.
Our group is interested in the functional and trophic relationships that forge intimate host-microbe interactions and shape bacterial communities, and the evolutionary outcomes of these symbioses.
Two main questions guide our current research:
1) how are symbiotic microbes employed by their hosts to obtain essential nutrients and facilitate trophic niche expansions
2) what are the structural and functional impacts of ancient and obligate associations with eukaryotes on the genomes, genes and gene products of their bacterial partners
Insects, specifically cockroaches and termites, are the focus of my research because they are ubiquitous, participate significantly in biomass turnover and maintain, often simultaneously, various types of symbioses with microbes.
We employ legacy microbiological tools as well as current and emergent molecular and genomics techniques to address several specific aspects of these questions.