Professor, Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science / College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
My research interests lie in three focal areas. The first concerns investigation of the ability of bacteria to survive in extremely oligotrophic environments. We are seeking patterns in the diversity and community structure of bacteria in oligotrophic environments including subsurface soils, Sonoran and Atacama Desert soils, Kartchner Caverns surfaces, and mine tailings from sites in southern Arizona. In addition we are investigating how drying and wetting cycles influence the survivability of bacteria in such environments. The second focal area relates to the development of a fundamental understanding of the biological factors and processes influencing the transport and fate of bacteria and contaminants in the environment. This research combines experimental-based investigation with modeling. The information gained from this research is used in the development of innovative remediation approaches which can be tested at a range of scales, from the pore-scale to the field-scale. The third focal area is the study of microbial surfactants (biosurfactants) including discovery of new biosurfactants, elucidation of the role of biosurfactants in microbial survival, and the development of potential biomedical and environmental applications for these fascinating molecules.