I am interested in understanding how microbial communities assemble and function in the sun-lit marine environment. Microbial ecosystems, contain diverse organisms that are connected by the exchange of metabolites. Although microbial ecosystems are widespread and important, we lack the foundational principles that help us understand how these systems assemble (determinants of composition and diversity) and function (collective breakdown or transformation of metabolites). One of the most well-studied microhabitats in the surface ocean is the phycosphere, which is the metabolite and nutrient-laden region immediately surrounding a phytoplankton cell. Phytoplankton release a wealth of organic molecules into the surrounding milieu, forming chemical gradients. Heterotrophic bacteria are able to exploit the elevated nutrient concentrations generated by phytoplankton and utilize these compounds for growth. Consequently, bacteria remineralize these organic compounds, which can then be fed back to the phytoplankton. My current project aims to understand the genetic basis of microbial success during assembly of phycosphere communities. Our experimental strategy is to assess the fitness advantage conferred by an individual gene during growth in phycospheres by measuring the ecological success of bacteria when that gene is rendered non-functional.
Outside of science, I enjoy reading comics, playing board games and video games, doodling, hiking, and eating food.