I have always been interested in science and how things work. As a child, I was always taking things apart to see how they worked, and amazing to me now, putting them back together so they worked again. My “toys” included chemistry sets, a microscope set, vinegar/baking soda powered rockets (made by a company in Richmond, VA), and electronics kits. Perhaps my interest in the sea originated from watching Sea Hunt, but I also read biographies of Jacques Cousteau and of the Piccard’s and their decent into the Marianas Trench in the Trieste. At 13, I read all of Jules Verne’s novels, and would walk along the beach near my grandfather’s cottage on the Chesapeake Bay classifying, like Verne’s character Conseil, everything I found washed up on the shore. So by the time I graduated from high school, my course was set. I would pursue a career in marine biology.
I began my education on-track with that goal. I earned a BS in biology at Virginia Commonwealth University and an MA in marine science from The College of William and Mary at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. But while at VIMS I developed an interest in more theoretical aspects of biology and left for Purdue University where I earned a PhD in ecology and evolution. Finding it difficult to find a permanent position in that field, and still interested in environmental science, I accepted a post-doctoral trainee-ship in environmental toxicology at Michigan State University and stayed on as a research professor. My research there on the environmental fate of pollutants took off when I was the first to demonstrate microbially mediated reductive dechlorination of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and later DDE, a supposedly dead end product in the DDT degradation pathway. With the advent of pyro-sequencing technology, I began using that method to characterize dehalogenating communities, and still later to use it and MiSeq to characterize bacterial and fungal communities in various habitats -so quite a deviation from my original goal.
Since officially retiring in 2012, I have stayed involved by teaching workshops, writing tutorials and other documentation, and helping with data analysis and writing. This website serves in part as a repository for some of the materials I have produced.