The Microbial Environment

Humanity depends on the ecological services performed by bacteria, archaea, fungi and protists, which recycle nutrients, nurture plant growth, purify water, make cheese and wine, and decompose wastes.  Microbes also play a key role in turning atmospheric carbon dioxide back into carbon to be stored in soils or the ocean depths (and doing likewise with nitrogen, sulfur, iron, manganese and more). 

PHE investigates how current DNA technologies can be applied to answering questions ranging from: How should scientists define and measure changes in the diversity of microbial life and gain insight into its future evolutionary trajectory?  How can DNA technologies be better used for other types of socially significant investigation such as authenticating works of art and historical manuscripts?  How can scientists better use DNA technologies as forensic tools for monitoring the spread of disease in the human environment? Current PHE projects concerning the Microbial Environment include:

Microbial diversity

Biology in Art

Sewage archives

About the icon – A microbial community on the surface of kelp. Each dot or filament is a bacterial cell and the different colors indicate different kinds of bacteria: Granulosicoccus (magenta), Planctomycetes and Verrucomicrobia (dark blue), Alphaproteobacteria (cyan), Bacteroidetes (yellow).  CREDIT: Tabita Ramirez-Puebla and Jessica Mark Welch, Marine Biological Laboratory.

Publications about The Microbial Environment

DS Thaler and TP Sakmar. Archiving time series sewage samples as biological records of built environments [external link]. BMC Infectious Diseases 21 (601): 2021

JH Ausubel and DS Thaler. Plant and Animal Diversity Is Declining, But What About Microbial Diversity? [external link]. RealClear Science 11 May 2021 biodiversity

DS Thaler. Is Global Microbial Biodiversity Increasing, Decreasing, or Staying the Same? [external link]. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 2021

MY Stoeckle, DS Thaler. Why Should Mitochondria Define Species? (PDF). Human Evolution 33 (1-2): 1-30 2018 Species evolution, mitocondrial evolution, speciation, human evolution

JH Ausubel. Using New Anthropological and Biological Tools to Learn about Leonardo Da Vinci. Human Evolution 31 (3): 125–131 2016