ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMISTRY AND
MICROBIOLOGY OF TRACE METALS
Some trace metals such as iron and zinc are essential for life and their low concentrations sometimes limit the growth of organisms. Other metals such as mercury and cadmium are pollutants that sometimes reach toxic concentrations in the environment. Our research deals with the chemical and biological mechanisms that determine the transformations, the biological uptake, the physiological and ecological effects, and the global cycling of trace metals in the environment. By catalyzing biological transformations as cofactors of key enzymes, trace metals also play a critical role in the global cycles of the major elements of living matter, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus (C, N and P). One of our research themes (sometimes called “environmental bioinorganic chemistry”) is the elucidation, at both the molecular and the global level, of the linkages between the cycles of trace metals and those of C, N and P.
We approach our work with a mix of laboratory and field experiments using a variety of chemical, microbiological, and genetic tools, as appropriate. Our work is also informed by theoretical considerations from a number of disciplines ranging from bioinorganic chemistry to geology and ecology.