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Partners and People

Who is involved?                                              Want to be involved? Sign up here

In the first year, in addition to advancing this science (see publications page), we envision establishing a broader UA community of researchers to solidify institute-level research grants.

In Fall 2014 the EGI helped in preparing and submitting a NSF Science and Technology Center pre-proposal led by co-PIs Russ Monson and Rod Wing and entitled,“Genomics Examined at the Nexus with Ecosystems (GENE)”.  The proposal engaged faculty and staff across 7 departments at UA, and involves 16 institutions with UA as the lead institution.

Scott Saleska (Founding Member)

My research focuses on what might be called “biogeochemical ecology,” asking questions about how climate interacts with plant physiology, demography, and ecological processes to influence or control biogeochemical cycling from local to global scales. Just one example of the need for more complete understanding in this area is the lack of species interactions in modern global climate models, even though such interactions can be critically important in controlling ecosystem carbon cycling and hence, feedbacks to climate. Progress has been limited by the difficulty of bridging the gap between local-scale ecological interactions and broader biogeochemical processes. I use multidisciplinary approaches that combine classical techniques of field ecology and forestry with advanced technological methods (e.g., the micrometeorological eddy covariance method, isotopic techniques) and modeling to integrate biogeochemical processes to ecosystem scales.

Russell Monson

I study how climate change in the Western US is influencing the carbon and water cycles in mountain forests. I also study how the emissions of organic compounds from forests across the globe influence atmospheric chemistry, particularly with regard to the the lifetime of compounds that influence climate. In the past, I have studied plant-microorganism interactions in the alpine ecosystem nitrogen cycle and I have studied the evolution of C4 photosynthesis in plants.




Rod Wing

Research Interests

- Comparative Evolutionary Genomics of Crop Plants (Rice, Oryza, Maize, Cotton, Brassica, Amborella)
- Genome Sequencing and Physical Mapping
- Bioinformatics
- BAC Library Construction & Distribution
- Education and Outreach - Plant Science Family Nights


Betsy Arnold

I joined the faculty in the Division of Plant Pathology and Microbiology in the Department of Plant Sciences at the UA in January, 2005. I currently teach three courses, curate the Robert L. Gilbertson Mycological Herbarium, lead and collaborate on research projects focusing on the ecology, evolution, and systematics of plant-associated fungi, participate in curriculum development at the graduate and undergraduate levels, work with a terrific group of students and friends, and generally have fun with my work.




Hanna (Johnny) Fares

Hanna (Johnny) Fares, Ph.D., is Professor and Associate Head in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.  Dr. Fares uses Caenorhabditis elegans and mammalian cells as models to decipher molecular mechanisms of lysosome formation and the molecular basis for symptoms in lysosomal storage disorders.





Rachel Gallery

My research group studies the ecology of soil microbes. Microbes define soil health, support ecosystem services, and maintain plant diversity. They are critical to ecosystem resiliency, especially in the context of climate change and the conservation challenges we currently face. Working across a range of ecosystems from lowland tropical forests, to high elevation conifer forests, to semi-arid grasslands, we use field-based experiments, microbiological techniques, and contemporary genetic tools to test the effects of plant-microbe interactions on plant and microbe community diversity, understand how environmental shifts will alter these interactions, and accurately predict the subsequent impacts on ecosystem function.

For more information please visit:

Bonnie Hurwitz

Dr. Bonnie Hurwitz is an Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Arizona and Bio5 Research Institute Fellow.  She has worked as a computational biologist for nearly two decades on interdisciplinary projects in both industry and academia.  Her research on the earth microbiome incorporates large-scale –omics datasets, high-throughput computing, and big data analytics to answer questions in systems biology.  In particular, Dr. Hurwitz is interested how viruses re-engineer host metabolism and the implications on host-driven biogeochemical cycles in the ocean at a global scale.  Dr. Hurwitz is well-cited for her work in computational biology in diverse areas from plant genomics to viral metagenomics with over 1300 citations.

Raina Maier 

My lab studies the microbial ecology and recovery of disturbed and marginal terrestrial ecosystems that are characterized by oligotrophy or nutrient poor conditions. We seek to understand patterns in microbial diversity that correlate with the sustainability of vegetation in disturbed regions such as mining wastes and arid desert ecosystems. Both culture- and molecular/phylogenetic-based approaches are used including metagenomic analysis of ecosystem communities.  A second focal area is the study of “eco-friendly” microbial surfactants (biosurfactants) including discovery of new biosurfactants, elucidating the microbial physiology associated with biosurfactant production as well as the role of biosurfactants in microbial survival. This work is being translated into potential biomedical and environmental applications, e.g., harvesting rare earth elements from industrial waste streams. 

Nirav Merchant

Over the last two decades my work has focused on developing computational platforms and enabling technologies, primarily directed towards improving research productivity and collaboration for interdisciplinary teams and virtual organizations.
The key thrust areas for my work encompass life cycle management for:
1. High throughput and automated bio sample processing systems 
2. Highly scalable data and metadata management systems 
3. High throughput and high performance computing systems 

My recent work has been directed towards supporting pervasive computing needs for mHealth (mobile health) initiatives and health interventions, with focus on developing study management platforms that leverage cloud based telephony, messaging and video in conjunction with wearable’s and sensors.

Platforms and tools developed by team are actively utilized for: 
1. Managing bio samples and data for clinically certified (CAP/CLIA) NGS pipelines
2. Large scale genotyping (million+ samples) platforms with robotic automation
3. National scale Cyberinfrastructure (iPlant) that facilitate global team of researchers to effectively manage their data, computation and collaborations using a cohesive computational platform

David Moore

I’m an ecologist who studies how ecosystems and climate influence each other. I try to understand how carbon, water, energy and nutrients move through ecosystems. I treat mathematical models of ecosystems as formal hypotheses about how ecological processes control ecosystem functions. I investigate these processes at different scales and currently my research group is working on how the seasonality of fluxes of carbon and water influence the controls of net primary productivity and carbon allocation in ecosystems, how species or plant functional types cause changes in land surface processes and how microbial activity influences biogeochemical cycling. To do this I use a variety of lines of evidence from leaf level ecophysiology to satellite remote sensing and try to combine these data with mathematical models using formal statistical approaches. 


Participating Partners 

Ohio State University

Virginia Rich (Founding Member)

My lab studies how microbes respond to, and in turn help shape, environmental change. We are particularly interested in global change interactions with biogeochemical cycling. Our lens into microbial community composition and function is through molecular "meta-omics" tools, which we bring to robust interdisciplinary collaborations with biogoechemists and modelers to generate a systems-level understanding of ecosystems undergoing change.

To learn about our specific research projects, please visit our lab website at


Matthew Sullivan (Founding Member)

As the world faces global change and resource limitation, understanding the planet's microbes (e.g. bacteria, archaea) becomes a necessity. This is because microbes drive the biogeochemistry that runs the planet, and are central to human endeavors, from food to health to industry. Viruses that infect microbes profoundly shape microbial populations and processes by acting as both major predators and sources of new genes.

We work to understand viral impacts on globally important microbial processes. As empiricists, we test hypotheses through direct systems-level studies of natural populations, complemented by developing and studying model phage-host systems in the lab with the goal of generating the data required for predictive ecosystem modeling. Practically, we develop new ways to "see" viruses — in the microscope, in environmental sequence datasets, in experiments — i.e., we are learning how to "count" across different data types.

Given this quantitative toolkit, current research questions include:

1) What is a viral population or species?

2) How do viral assemblages change over space and time, and what drives these patterns?

3) How do bottom-up processes impact top-down predators?