I grew up in Portland, Oregon and received my PhD in Biology from the University of Oregon in 2007. From there I moved to Japan where I worked as adjunct faculty at Tokyo Metropolitan University and then as a foreign postdoctoral researcher at RIKEN in Yokohama. I joined NASA Ames as an NPP fellow in 2012 and currently work as a Research Scientist at NASA.
I am interested in the ecological and evolutionary factors that shape microbial distributions and interactions. The majority of our knowledge about microorganisms is derived from experimental studies of isolates in the laboratory but environmental research has revealed that most microbial diversity remains uncultured and/or uncharacterized. Because much of what a microbe ‘does’ is in direct response to other microbes or to environmental conditions not experienced in isolation in a test tube, the true ecological functions of microbes can only be explored from a community- or ecosystem-level perspective. I am currently studying the dynamics of hydrogen production in microbial mats using a metatranscriptomics approach and I am working to construct an experimental system using simpler mats that mimic the functions of a natural mat. The goal for these ‘artificial’ mats is to provide a foundation for biological-based life support technologies in support of human exploration of the solar system.