Microbiome research is among the most exciting and promising areas of science today due to many technological advances that allow us to determine in complex environments which microbes are present and their metabolism. Our laboratory’s primary long-term research goal is to contribute to the understanding of microbial communities, their biodiversity and evolution. Our discoveries and their applications have has previously worked with several regional companies to successfully attract Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) phase I and II (4 successful awards totaling $1.1M) and venture capital funding (successful Series A and B rounds totaling $30M). An issued patent and several invention disclosures have been licensed by UMass to these companies. I have helped establish the Center for Microbiome Research (through a collaboration with the UMass Medical School) whose mission is to promote innovative and collaborative research, translate discoveries to practice, and inform our community about what microbiome research is discovering. Working in the fields of evolutionary biology and climate change, we are sensitive to how scientific results can be difficult to reconcile with our belief systems and seek to increase public understanding of scientific data.
Our current research is center at the Harvard Forest in Petersham, MA, home to long-term experimental soil warming sites heated continuously to 5° C above ambient temperature since 1991. Our recent work using single cell sorting following by genome sequencing has revealed a surprising diversity of microbial life at Harvard Forest. Sixteen new lineages of giant viruses were discovered for the first time in a forest soil ecosystem. Intracellular and host-dependent bacteria (including Chlamydiae, Legionellales, Bacteriodetes, Rickettsiales and TM6/Dependentiae) were also prominent in our data set which along with the giant viruses are thought to infect and reside in protist hosts. We are working on methods to identify the hosts, function and ecological relevance of these viruses and bacteria in addition to further exploring these new frontiers in biodiversity. Complex interactions between members of the soil food web including plants, insects, fungi, bacteria and viruses determine soil carbon dynamics and other soil biogeochemical transformations. In order to link microbial metabolism with soil biogeochemistry, we measured cellular metabolism and soil organic matter chemistry using both next generation sequencing and high-resolution mass spectrometry (MS). This integrative approach is providing data provides new insights on microbial carbohydrate and lignin transformations resulting from long-term experimental warming.
Learn more at https://www.bio.umass.edu/biology/blanchard/
- AS Vermont Technical College, 1983
- BS Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 1987
- PhD University of Georgia, 1995
- Postdoctoral Training: University of Oregon, 1995-1998
- Postdoctoral Training: Promega Corporation, 1998-1999