The Role of Microbial Food-webs in Aquatic Ecosystem Function
To improve our understanding of energy flow and nutrient cycles across freshwater ecosystems, the long-term research objectives of the Kirkwood lab are to assess the structure and function of microbial food-webs, including a focus on the microbial loop as the engine of carbon and elemental nutrient flux. Concurrent with these long-term research foci, we will investigate the role of the microbial loop in controlling contaminant fate in surface waters. In the near-term, our research program is focusing on the roles of algae and bacteria as key players in aquatic ecosystem function and contaminant fate. Specifically, our research group is determining how the synergistic and antagonistic interactions between algae and bacteria mediate carbon, nutrient, and contaminant dynamics in lakes of The Land Between. This project has the capacity to support both Masters and Ph.D. projects, so please contact Dr. Kirkwood if you are interested in pursuing this area of research for your graduate studies.
Microbial Diversity and Function in Urban Aquatic Systems
Aquatic systems (i.e. ponds, creeks and wetlands) in urban environments are classically viewed as biologically depauperate, with minimal ecological function. However, as microbial ecologists know, microbial communities in even the most extreme environments can be surprisingly diverse. We are investigating the role of microbes (algae and bacteria) in the ecological function of urban ponds and wetlands. Current studies include: (1) An examination of the capacity of different urban wetland types to tolerate and biodegrade chlorinated contaminants; and (2) The characterization of urban storm-water ponds with respect to water quality parameters, contaminants and microbial diversity and activity.