University of California - Davis :: Department of Land, Air and Water Resources

Overview

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Humans usually recognize the impact of microbes on their lives through an infectious disease or spoiled food, but microorganisms have far more important beneficial effects. Microbes are responsible for producing foods (wine, cheese, and bread) and biofuels (ethanol, CH4, H2), degrading toxic compounds, recycling organic material, and driving biogeochemical cycles in nature. Our capacity to appreciate them is based on the limited number of microbial species in isolation. Owing to molecular biology techniques, we know that many more microbial species are waiting to be discovered. The research program in our laboratory is guided by the following specific questions:

  • 1) How is the genetic diversity of a species reflected in its habitat abundance pattern?
  • 2) What biological, chemical, and physical forces shape spatial and temporal patterns of species distribution?
  • 3) What are the genomic features (genes, regulatory sequences, gene copy number, etc.) responsible for the ecological outcome of a species?

To answer these questions, our laboratory has been using a combination of genomic, proteomic, and physiological experimental data to study microbial phylogenetic and functional diversification. Results from this work have broad implications to basic research in evolutionary biology and ecology, and applied aspects, such as conservation policies for natural and agricultural ecosystems.

Research Support

US National Science Foundation
US Department of Agriculture

Department of Energy - Environ. Molecular Science Lab.
Department of Energy - Joint Genome Institute

  Plant and Environmental Sciences Building, room 3308, University of California - Davis, CA, 95616