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Biological Sciences

About Microbiology

Microbiologists Sarah Fansler (left) and Vanessa Bailey (right) look at cellulose-degrading organisms and soil isolates in a walk-in environmental chamber that controls growth conditions.

We study microbial ecology to understand how microbes live and grow in the environment and how they react with each other. We do this to see how life works, to the smallest detail. To learn how life on Earth evolved, perhaps from cosmic microbes and minerals. To learn from nature how to make efficient and renewable materials, fuels, and high value chemicals. And to learn how microbes act in the world to influence climate.

Many of our scientists focus on soil and its microbial residents. Soil is an environmental keystone. It is the basis for all plant and animal life, a vast archive of biological diversity, and a critical buffer to global health. It filters and stores water and provides nutrients to the plants at the base of life’s food chain. Just a few centimeters of soil determines our food security, clean water, and climate resilience.

Biological Sciences


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