Welcome to the Norman Molecular Microbial Ecology Laboratory!

The microbial world is the largest unexplored biological reservoir on Earth, yet we know very little about its structure and function in natural ecosystems. This lack of knowledge is due to the fact that greater than 99% of microbes in nature are refractory to traditional laboratory culture. This limited access to the ‘uncultured majority’ also has constrained our understanding of fundamental microbial processes to tightly-controlled laboratory conditions having limited ecological relevance. Fortunately, recent advances in genomic technologies have now provided the microbial ecologist with the means to access the genetic potential of the ‘uncultured majority’. Techniques, such as those involved in metagenomics, are now being applied to a range of ecosystems and changing the way we view microbial ecology.
My research interests center around using state-of-the-art genomic and metagenomic approaches to understand how bacteria affect ecosystem and human health. We are using these approaches to examine:

  1. How bacteria communicate and coordinate gene expression by exploring the diversity of genes involved in bacterial cell density dependent gene regulation and how these processes affect microbial community functional diversity in numerous ecosystems.
  2. The potential of using novel nanotechnology-based therapeutics as an alternative to traditional antibiotic treatment of infectious bacterial infections.
  3. How a rapidly expanding urban landscape is affecting the structure and function of microbial communities found throughout coastal ecosystems. Because urbanization ultimately results in increased runoff of pollutants into the environment, we are examining the genetic capability of bacteria to degrade numerous priority pollutants as well as understanding how these emerging pollutants may be affecting the distribution of bacterial pathogens in the environment.
  4. The use of state-of-the-art DNA sequencing technologies to explore the metagenomes of marine stromatolites and hypersaline microbial mats.

Columbia, SC 29208 • 803-777-4553 • rsnorman at sc.edu