Research





Postdoctoral Researcher
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Department of Geosciences
Las Vegas, NV
2016 - Present

Snow algae form dense, brightly colored red to green blooms in snow. How these cold-loving micro-algae achieve such high cell densities in a low-nutrient snow environment is still unknown. We use both field and laboratory-based approaches to investigate the ability of mineral-bound nutrients, such as iron, to support snow algae growth. Findings will advance our understanding of how eukaryotic life can survive in extreme environments relevant to astrobiological targets. Additional motivations for this work include understanding the geographic distribution of snow algae and their impact on snow albedo and melt rate as it relates to nutrient availability.





 Postdoctoral Researcher
 Montana State University
 Department of Earth Science
 Bozeman, MT
  
2014-2015
 Many geochemical processes thought to be abiotic in nature are in fact regulated and enhanced by microbial activities. My research interests span a broad range of topics driven by the overarching objective to understand how aqueous geochemistry and microbe-mineral interactions drive chemical cycling between the hydro-, bio- and litho-spheres and contribute to system habitability. Investigations include both laboratory and field based studies that integrate molecular and geochemical analyses to identify environmentally relevant microbe-mineral interactions. Current laboratory based investigations include evaluating the ability of an alpine subglacial bacterial isolate to drive pyrite (FeS2) oxidation under aerobic and anaerobic conditions, and the importance of direct microbe-mineral contact for bioavailability of mineral-bound elements. Fieldwork included studying how geochemical parameters and mineralogy shape the endogenous microbiome at Robertson Glacier, Peter Loughleed Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada, and the Mount Rainier Summit Firn Caves, Washington, USA.  Developing an understanding of the microbe-mineral connections that contribute to the habitability of subglacial and glacio-volcanic environments will provide direction for the next astrobiological target in the search for life beyond Earth. 




Doctoral Research:
University of Washington
Department of Earth and Space Sciences
Seattle, WA
2008-2014
  As single celled organisms, bacteria rely on a high surface area to volume ratio to obtain compounds necessary for their metabolic processes. This geometric configuration maximizes the interface between microbial cell walls and the surrounding environment; promoting efficient chemical transfer into and out of the cell while also providing a highly reactive, complex organic surface in many environmental media. In effect, microbial surfaces are the interface between cellular and geochemical processes and thus represent a physical confluence of the bio-, hydro- and litho- spheres. My doctoral dissertation furthers our understanding of how and to what extent bacterial surface reactivity influences geochemical processes within the hydro- and lithospheres.

AGU 2013 Fall Meeting Poster: 


 
 
Geochemistry Field Assistant
Thule and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
2011, 2012 Melt Seasons

 
I worked as a field assistant in Thule and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, for a collaborative project designed to elucidate a link between sub-glacial microbes and their effect on chemical weathering rates.  My primary roles as a field assistant include collecting basal water samples and geochemical data such as water pH, oxygen content, temperature, alkalinity and iron content.  Field sampling and laboratory work was full of surprises and kept us on our toes! Check out my blog for some accounts of our adventures.

PIs: Dr. Karen Junge, Dr. Ron Sletten, Dr. Brent Christner, and Dr. Birgit Haagedorn