How does chemistry help us understand ecosystems at the molecular level?
What I Do
Materials and Molecular Analysis
The Materials and Molecular Analysis (MMA) Center is housed in the Analytical Resources Core (ARC) at Colorado State University. MMA is a core facility with the a mission to provide state-of-the-art research infrastructure and education services in support of advanced chemical and materials sciences. I am a Research Scientist at the MMA providing analytical training and consultation in mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
My research centers on using the collection of small molecules in environmental systems to learn how microbial communities in soils, plants and aquatic systems respond to drivers such as moisture, nutrients, and temperature. Using this approach I have developed new theories linking microbial processing and biogeochemical cycling.
Chemistry for Ecologists
I am interested in solving complex biological problems in nature, yet crave the concreteness of understanding systems at the molecular level. This is why I do research that sits at the interface of ecology and chemistry. Working across discipline is challenging, and through my work I have a developed a way to apply concrete chemical analyses to the complexity of ecological systems.
I am an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry and a Research Scientist in the Materials and Molecular Analysis Center in the Analytical Resources Core, an affiliate of the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, and affiliate Faculty with the Degree Program in Ecology at Colorado State University. My studies focus on the feedbacks between the molecular structure of organic matter and its fate in the environment. I use ecosystem metabolomics, linking small molecule profiles of ecosystems with environmental drivers through their microbial communities in combination with other analytical methods to understand how global change drives carbon structure and how carbon structure can drive global change. My post-doctoral work was at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in microbial ecology, studying the responses of soil microorganisms to moisture stress in California grasslands and forests, and to freezing in arctic Alaska. My PhD is in Ocean Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz where I studied marine natural products elucidating the structures of novel molecules using mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. My undergraduate degree was in Ecology from the University of Colorado, Boulder.