In an effort to reduce dependence on petroleum, promote economic growth and diversification, and reduce human-induced climate change, the United States has developed a strategy that includes bio-based production of energy and compounds that can be used as precursors for industrial processes. It has been suggested that microorganisms with differing physiological capacities may provide an opportunity to generate commercially valuable products in a more sustainable, commercially viable manner.
Department of Microbiology
Chlamydiae are implicated in a variety of clinically and economically important diseases in livestock and companion animals. These bacteria are associated with abortion, conjunctivitis, encephalomyelitis, enteritis, pneumonia, and polyarthritis in ruminants. Infection with these bacteria is the most common cause of abortion in sheep and goats and also causes zoonotic infection in humans which, in pregnant women, can result in spontaneous abortion.
There is uncertainty about the effects of future climate on agricultural crop plants. Alfalfa is a crop that is used to provide feed for animals leading to meat production. This research will include experiments under controlled conditions that will allow prediction of how alfalfa plants will respond to future elevated CO2 (800ppm) and elevated ozone (O3) (80ppb). How these elevations affect plant growth and the nutritional value of the plants will be determined.
Global climate change and nitrogen deposition are processes that will only increase as industrialization continues. The purpose of this study is to understand the response of the microbially driven soil nitrogen cycle to the combined effects of temperature increase and nitrogen amendments in forest soils of New England. Terrestrial cycling of nutrients is of particular importance due to the effects nutrient cycling can have on plant growth and climate change.
Reaching the potential for renewable biofuels depends on the development of new technologies that are able to release the energy stored in cellulose fibers. This research project centers around an unusual microbe, Clostridium phytofermentans, that can convert a broad range of biomass sources directly to ethanol without expensive thermochemical pretreatment. Further development of conversion processes using C. phytofermentans will create a path to renewable biofuels using our region's sustainable forestry and crop resources.