Beautiful sunsets over our field site - Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California, Pacific Ocean

Hydrothermal vents at East Pacific Rise in the Pacific Ocean spewing hydrothermal fluid at 310 Celsius. Photo credit: WHOI

Black smoker hydrothermal vents at East Pacific Rise in the Pacific Ocean. Photo credit: WHOI

Ph.D student Patricia Tran conducting winter sampling on Lake Mendota

A solitary crab near a black smoker hydrothermal vent at East Pacific Rise in the Pacific Ocean. Photo credit: WHOI

Tubeworms thrive in the East Pacific Rise hydrothermal systems in the Pacific Ocean. Photo credit: WHOI

Spectacular "erupting" hydrothermal vents at Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California, Pacific Ocean. Photo credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute

Filamentous sulfur oxidizing bacteria colonize a hydrothermal marker. Photo credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute

A Giant Pacific Octopus calls Guaymas Basin home. Photo credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute

Hydrothermal mirrors reflect the colors of life. Photo credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute

Karthik sampling at sea. Photo credit: Thom Hoffman

The CTD rosette: workhorse of sampling at sea

Hydrothermal life through the lens of shimmering plumes. Photo credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute

Sampling biofilms in the deep sea. Photo credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute

High throughput water filtration for viruses at sea

Tube worms and mussels at the East Pacific Rise hydrothermal systems in the Pacific Ocean. Photo credit: WHOI

A fish swims yards away from 370 Celsius hydrothermal fluids. Photo credit: WHOI

Hydrothermal mirrors reflect the colors of life. Photo credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute

Unraveling the Role of Microbiomes in the Environment, Human Health, and Disease

We are a diverse and interdisciplinary group studying microbial ecology, viruses, metabolic interactions, and biogeochemistry with a focus on sulfur metabolism in environmental and human microbiomes.

OUR RESEARCH

Microbial metabolism has the potential to impact the evolutionary ecology of a system across various spatial and temporal scales ranging from the scope of a single cell, ecosystem, to the earth as a whole. We utilize a combination of fieldwork, laboratory experiments, and multi-omics based approaches to investigate the microbial and viral ecology of human and environmental systems such as deep-sea hydrothermal vents, oxygen minimum zones, the pelagic ocean water column, freshwater ecosystems, and the human gut.

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Microbial sulfur metabolism

Microorganisms control and modulate transformations associated with the element sulfur in natural and engineered systems. Sulfur plays a central role in biochemistry, impacts carbon and nitrogen turnover in various environments, and is critical to maintaining the health of oceans in the future. We use biotic sulfur transformations as a model to study the evolution and ecology of microbial energy metabolism.

Microbial and viral community interactions

Recent advances in DNA sequencing and bioinformatics approaches have enabled the recovery of thousands of strain-resolved microbial genomes from a single ecosystem thereby providing a window into fine scale microbial interactions and metabolic networks in complex communities. Broadly, we are interested in studying three types of interactions in microbial communities using sulfur transformations as a model – virus-microbe, microbe-microbe, and microbial “metabolic handoffs”. We focus on virus-microbe interactions involving “auxiliary metabolic genes”, which are host-derived genes utilized by viruses in selfishly altering microbial metabolism. We also study microbe-microbe interactions, and “metabolic handoffs” primarily focused on dissimilatory sulfur metabolism. We seek to quantify and predict the impact of such interactions on biogeochemical cycling at cellular, ecosystem, and global scales.

Developing omics-based approaches to advance microbial and viral ecology

We are developing new bioinformatic approaches to identify and characterize viruses, microbes, and their interactions and connections in microbiomes based on different types of omics data. Tools developed by our laboratory include VIBRANT (to study and characterize viruses), METABOLIC (to identify microbial metabolism and quantify community interactions based on metabolism), and PROPAGATE (to identify the activity of proviruses).

 

OUR RESEARCH IS FUNDED BY

 

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      The Brugger Family