I am interested in the various biological and abiotic processes that degrade organic matter in the surface ocean. To this end, I use computational and experimental techniques to query biological processes such as aerobic respiration, mechanical processes such as dissolution and disaggregation of sinking particles, and abiotic processes such as photo-oxidation. My interest in the remineralization (i.e., breakdown) of organic matter — as opposed to processes like photo- and chemosynthesis, which assemble it — makes me feel at times like an oceanographic Darth Vader. I am interested in these degradation processes because they are often direct manifestations of the many sources of stress, both anthropogenic and natural, that microorganisms encounter in marine ecosystems.
In my thesis research, I developed and applied new, open-source, ‘omics-based data discovery methods to analyze and identify lipid biomarkers for various stressors and degradation pathways in both cultures and samples from the marine environment. The free, open-source LOBSTAHS software is the centerpiece of a lipidomics approach that mines large volumes of high-resolution mass spectrometer data for molecules that serve as “chemical signatures” of these processes. As part of a team at WHOI, I assisted in the development of a new instrument, the PHORCYS, which makes in situ measurements of respiration and photosynthesis in the surface ocean.
I integrate novel computational approaches to data discovery into nearly all my projects. I viscerally committed to making my data, code, and research processes (i.e., provenance) available and open to all.