Current Research Priorities

Investigating whether microplastics impact Crayfish ectosymbiosis

Microplastic pollution has garnered considerable research attention over the past ten years, with a large focus on marine systems. The ecological effects of microplastics in inland waters are starting to become emphasized more in freshwater sciences. An estimated 80% of coastal plastic debris comes from inland areas, highlighting how freshwater systems, specifically streams, are hotspots for plastics and microplastics. Microplastics have been reported to be acutely toxic to aquatic invertebrates. Despite this, our understanding of the ecological consequence of microplastic pollution is lacking compared to other research priorities (occurrence, distribution, fate). In our lab, we aim to understand how microplastics impact symbiosis of keystone freshwater species, specifically native and invasive crayfish.

Degradation of microplastics in urban freshwater

Due to the pressing issue of microplastics pollution, there is a great deal of work looking into their toxicological impact on aquatic organisms. Less known, is the rate of degradation of plastics. Previous work has demonstrated that plastics can start producing microplastics in as little as 4-8 weeks. Those findings are specific to salt-marsh habitats. We are now assessing degradation of different polymers in streams that are influenced by different land use types.

Impact of emerging contaminants on biogeochemical cycling

Biogeochemistry is the study of how chemical elements flow through living systems and their physical environments. Biogeochemical processes are largely governed by microbial communities within sediment and soil. Due to anthropogenic influence, we are currently living in the Anthropocene, where human activity is the dominant influence on the environment and climate. As a result of human activity, our environment is plagued with various synthetic chemicals at low levels that may impact microbial communities responsible for various biogeochemical processes. We aim to understand how different contaminants in single and mixture exposures impact microbes ability to facilitate biogeochemical processes.

Antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is a global issue that has implication for human and environmental health. Although antibiotic resistance can occur naturally in nature, the increased production and use of antibiotics over the past four decades has resulted in microbes coming resistant to various classes of antibiotics. A research priority for our lab is investigating antibiotic resistant genes in municipal waste water, surface water, groundwater, and commercial poultry items that are marketed as "antibiotic free". We are also interested in evaluating the occurrence of antibiotic resistant genes as a secondary impact of the COVID19 outbreak due to antibiotics being a part of patients treatment.