Ben Colman's Research Interests
I am broadly interested in ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry, microbial ecology, with a focus on drivers of C and nutrient cycling in undisturbed and disturbed systems.
Controls on C and nutrient cycling at the continental scale:
The focus of much of my research is on studying the basic patterns and underlying mechanisms of carbon and nutrient cycling and retention in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Understanding the controls of these fundamental processes is essential to predicting the response of ecosystems to a changing world. By looking across a range of natural waters, soils, and sediments, we can better discriminate broad controls on C and nutrient cycling.
Ecosystem-level impacts of chemical perturbations:
Human caused global change goes beyond greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change. The wastes and byproducts of humans and our activities are increasingly entering ecosystems where they can serve as both resources and stressors to plants, algae, and microbes. An increasing part of my work is dedicated to understanding the impacts of these chemical perturbations on ecosystem function.
Ecosystem impacts of engineered nanomaterials:
Much of my postdoctoral work has focused on using the tools of ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry, and microbial ecology to examine the impacts of an emerging class of contaminants, engineered nanomaterials, on the abundance, activity, and community composition of microbes and primary producers. This work represents a collaboration with many investigators at Duke, University of Kentucky, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Virginia Tech, Howard, UNC Chapel Hill, and Clemson. Our investigations have ranged from small lab scale assays to field scale terrestrial and aquatic mesocosms, and we have seen large changes from the level of organisms to ecosystems at environmentally relevant concentrations of nanoparticle pollution.
In collaboration with Emily Bernhardt and Ashley Helton at Duke, Marcelo Ardón at ECU, Jen Morse at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Science, and Kayley Hake of UC Berkeley, I'm working to better understand the impacts of saltwater intrusion into dominantly freshwater coastal wetlands. Specifically, my role is to see if changes in the abundance and community composition of methanogens and methanotrophs relate to changes in methane flux measured in the field and in laboratory microcosms in response to saltwater intrusion.