My expertise in microbial ecology lies in exploring microbial diversity, function and mechanism to understand microbe-microbe and microbe-abiotic system interactions. To this end, I studied microbial diversity, microbial processes dynamics, microbial cycling, microbe-microbe and microbe-eukaryote interactions. I have extensive experience in isolating difficult to culture bacterial from soil, rhizosphere and plant material. Some of them part of the rare biosphere. For long time it was believed that some of these bacterial groups (e.g. particular groups of Acidobacteria and Verrucomicrobia) would remain uncultured.
Early in my career I studied the forces and interaction among difficult to culture bacteria and the soil matrix. Later, I changed my focus to the understanding of why bacterial groups would remain uncultured. At that moment, I realized that a deep understand of microbial physiology, microbe-microbe and microbe-abiotic matrix interactions are of great importance to diminish the culturability gap. I have also isolated many difficult to culture bacteria from the rhizosphere environment and performed bench, microcosm and field experiments to understand their ecology and cycle in soil-plant systems. My work has pinpointed that to shed light in the ecology of difficult to culture bacteria it is necessary to couple advanced culture-dependent and –independent techniques.
My current interest focus on the understanding of how yet to be cultured bacteria are involved in processes important for human and environment health, such as climate change. In particular, I am interest to understand the functional, regulatory and metabolic mechanisms that allow biofilms in areas with infrequent wetting to transition from a dormant dry state to an active wet state after a precipitation event and back to dormancy as they dry. Also, I am involved in the isolation of difficult to culture rhizosphere bacteria that will later be used to elucidate how soil organic matter decomposition in the rhizosphere is accelerated.