Our topics bridge across disciplines such as biophysics, geomicrobiology, sedimentology, interfacial geochemistry, evolutionary biology and stem cell biology
Microbial evolution and community structures
Bacteria form dense and diverse biofilms of different species and mutants in a wide range of environments. This tight association is considered central to the ability of bacteria to adapt to new ecological conditions. However, what is missing in this picture is how the internal organization of the biofilm affects bacterial evolution.
Adsorption to minerals can change the behavior of biomolecules. AN example is DNA. DNA degrades in an aqueous environment in days to weeks but adsorbed to mineral surfaces DNA can survive for thousands of years. We are interested in which minerals and which conditions favor DNA preservation and why.
The rise of multicellular life on Earth remains to tease our inquisitive minds. We still lack an understanding why animal diversity increased so dramatically and so late in Earth history. We also fail to explain why only plants, animals, and fungi made the transition to persistent multicellularity.
In several of our projects we follow how elements are cycled, within the biosphere, the environment, and between the two.
Plastic as a sedimentary archive of the Anthropocene
Plastic debris is widespread in the environment. Ocean and coastal environments are studied to track the distribution, degradation and uptake of this pollutant in natural systems. Sediment has been identified as a main sink for plastics, and as such represent a potential archive of this new material marking the Anthropocene. We focus on the identification and quantification of plastic in sediment to help build that global record.
Propagation of Antibiotic resistance genes
Antibiotic resistance genes can be found in most environments on Earth. We study several aspects of horizontal gene transfer and consider environmental parameters, nutrient availability, sedimentary processes and mineral surface geochemistry to help address the fast propagation and how to prevent future spread.
Cells in tissue biofilms are supposedly sessile but sometimes cells gain motility. In the case of cancer, this single cell invasion leads to metastasis and is therefore lethal to the host organism. We try to follow cancer cell motility in 3D and to what extent these cells are analogous to protists.