Although I wear several scientific hats, most of my research has examined the effects of human activity on global biogeochemistry from the Tropics to Antarctica. I have specifically examined the evolutionary potential of microbial systems on larger ecosystems under various global change scenarios through a combination of oceanographic, molecular, machine learning, and genomic/epigenomic methods. Microbes lie at the base of global food webs and significantly influence elemental (e.g. carbon/nitrogen/phosphorus) cycling, which in turn modulates climate dynamics. I like to the think that much of my research lies at the intersection of the living and non-living.
I have also collaborated with NASA colleagues in the fields astrobiology and geomicrobiology where we studied the limits of life and the molecular mechanisms of energy generation in extreme environments such as subseafloor and alkaline habitats. Since microbes constantly innovate and adapt to their physicochemical regime, we can uncover alternative modes of life utilized by different microbial systems such as the ability to breathe metal or transport electrons between cells. Fundamental mechanisms discovered in extreme environments have been subsequently developed into many forms of biotechnology that have fueled global industries.
During my time at the J. Craig Venter Institute starting in 2011, my algal molecular genomics lab collaborated with the synthetic biology group (a burgeoning field that combines biology and engineering to create artificial biological systems for research and technological applications) to lay the groundwork to create synthetic algal cells. Since then, I have been tracking the field due to its implications for not only technology but for social and ethical ramifications.
Since much of my worked overlapped with diverse technological advancements including next-generation DNA sequencing, artificial intelligence, nanobiotechnology, remote sensing, etc., my interests expanded from solely tracking global earth and marine systems to assessing their interactions with the rapid development of exponential technologies and their effects on human consciousness and global societies. Upon joining the global nonprofit, NEXUS, I co-founded the NEXUS Futurism Lab to convene leaders across industry to highlight and drive social impact in rapidly advancing, emerging technologies that are poised to significantly alter social, economic, and political conditions worldwide. Since then, I have curated a number of gatherings including content for global summits from the Americas to Asia.