Vincent Denef

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Assistant Professor
  • Literature, Science, & Arts
    • Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
734-764-6481

Research systems and rationale

Because they are smaller than marine systems, freshwater ecosystem functioning is more vulnerable to the impacts of global change (land use change, invasive species, and climate change). Yet, freshwater carbon cycling is rarely incorporated into global carbon budgets. This exclusion means that we lack proper models to evaluate the responses of freshwater carbon cycling to global change. Existing ecosystem modeling approaches in any system generally make abstraction of the specific composition and activity of microbial communities. In order to explore how specific microbial community metrics (species diversity, genetic diversity underlying specific functions, ...) may improve modeling of freshwater carbon cycling responses to anthropogenic change, we need to first improve our grasp of the relationship between carbon metabolism and the dynamics and functioning of bacteria, archaea, and their viruses—the main drivers of carbon and nutrient cycling.

Core questions

Throughout all our projects, we are driven by questions at the interface of evolution and ecology:
(i) How does human disturbance of the local and global environment drive microbial ecological dynamics (changes in community structure and behavior (through gene expression))?
(ii) How do these population and community level responses affect ecosystem functioning, particularly the balance between carbon storage and respiration?
(iii) What is the role of fine-scale evolutionary processes in microbial adaptation to change, and how does it impact ecosystem functioning?