My work is currently focused on investigating the impacts of oil and natural gas inputs on the microbial and planktonic community in the Gulf of Mexico. We are focused on describing the phytoplankton assemblages near natural oil and gas seeps in the Gulf of Mexico based on data acquired using satellite imaging, in-situ fluorometry and autonomous profilers. We are also looking at the response of microbes in the water column to inputs of oil, nutrients, and grazing/predation stress, to better understand the nature of oil biodegradation in these ecosystems.
I am also interested in microbial communities associated with ice in marine and freshwater ecosystems. My earlier work on the Laurentian Great Lakes involved characterizing the dominant psychrophyles in a winter phytoplankton bloom, focusing on microscopy, nutrient stoichiometry, and primary productivity. In addition, we also described a symbiotic association between the dominant diatoms in these blooms and their bacterial epiphytes that could engineer their environment by directed formation of ice. My colleagues and I have recently been looking for similar sympagic communities in other high-latitude aquatic environments.