Through the support of an NSERC Accelerate Fellowship, I began working on a partnership between the University of British Columbia, Thompson Rivers University, and Mount Polley Mine to investigate the role soil microbial communities play in determining plant community composition and structure. This project started in July 2014, and largely altered in scope following the collapse of the Mine’s tailings impoundment, releasing 24 million m2 of untreated mine waste into the local watershed. After securing funding for sequencing and fieldwork through Genome Canada and Genome BC, my collaborators and I used our shared technical strengths to develop a biomonitoring program for passive remediation of the site, and coordinated research outcomes alongside the reclamation effort. This ‘natural experiment’ provided a unique opportunity to evaluate the role of both disturbance and microbial community composition and structure in determining soil metabolic processes within a rapidly changing landscape (Garris et al 2018).
Our lab continues to explore connections between landscape-scale disturbance and soil microbial community diversity and function. We are exploring the role soil microbes play in responding to forestry pesticide applications and the effects of fire and subsequent recovery on soil biogeochemical processes.