Marine microbes carry out a variety of biochemical reactions that shape the chemistry of the ocean in which they live. The ocean has many and variable chemical gradients, for example, oxygen minimum zones, each with its own community of marine microbes. The fundamental mechanism by which these microorganisms respond to natural chemical gradients and ephemeral substrate injections to create the observed biogeochemical structure, however, is unknown. Our research seeks an understanding of microbial/chemical interactions and global nutrient cycling as a whole. Bacterial metabolism of nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen is being simulated using laboratory microfluidics and bulk culturing experiments designed to test how marine microorganisms respond to chemical cues and interact with their environment.
In the realm of micro- and millifluidics, we have designed devices that subject various flavors of bacteria to different chemical gradients (like oxygen!) and assess how they respond. We further look at particle-based denitrification and the interactions of microorganisms with each other. Lots of exciting research afoot with theoretical microbial ecology, bacterial evolution, and chemical stimuli controlling microbial function and community development!