Speaker: Dr. Bruce Hungate
Place: Forum Chriesbach, FC-C20
Microorganisms influence the composition of the atmosphere, the cycling of elements in and through ecosystems, the functioning of agricultural ecosystems on which humans depend, and human health. Microorganisms are also the most metabolically flexible, and the most taxonomically and evolutionarily diverse organisms on Earth. Yet deciphering how that diversity imprints on the processes they influence at larger scales has proven challenging, because of the overwhelming complexity of microbial communities, and because of the difficulty of quantifying how microbial taxa assimilate and transform elements in the environment. In this talk, I will discuss new approaches that blend traditions from microbial ecology and ecosystem science to explore how the diversity and physiology of microorganisms could shape ecosystem biogeochemistry and how it responds to global environmental change. The talk will focus on carbon and element cycling in soil, where, historically, the diversity, complexity, and intractability of soil microbial ecosystems has relegated their study to either a reductionist descriptive tradition in microbial ecology or to a simplistically quantitative one in ecosystem science. New ideas and tools are poised to push microbial ecology toward more meaningful integration with ecological fields at larger scales, from ecosystems to the globe.