The microbial Ecology section: A microbiome of cool.


Mario Muscarella is a PhD candidate at Indiana University. He is studying microbial specialization on carbon resources in aquatic ecosystems and how specialization alters community composition and ecosystem function across dissolved organic carbon gradients. He is also interested in microbial resource usage traits and how variation in traits controls the fate of resources in the environment. He has been an ESA member since 2012, and is the current Student Section liaison to the Microbial Ecology Section. 

By Mario Muscarella PhD student, Indiana University

The Microbial Ecology Section is a relatively new, yet highly energetic, ESA section. Brendan Bohannan started the section in 2007 with the goal of providing a home for ESA’s microbial ecologists. Since the formation of our section, we have seen continuous growth in section membership and the number of microbe-oriented sessions at the Annual Meeting.

Members of our section work in a variety of environments (ranging from deep ocean hydrothermal vents to the human gut), and study a vast array of organisms (including bacteria, archaea, fungi, microeukaryotes, and viruses). Because microbes have a role in most ecological processes, the interests of our members overlap with the members of other sections such as: soil ecology, aquatic ecology, biogeosciences, disease ecology, and theoretical ecology. As such, our section operates like a network hub – bringing together diverse thinkers and forming new collaborations.

As in previous year, microbial ecology will continue to have a strong presence at the annual meeting with multiple sessions that focus on microbes. The list includes our general microbial ecology sessions as well as numerous organized sessions: Microbial Insights into Climate, Scaling Microbial Functions from Molecule to the Globe, Microbial Efficiency, Trait-based Ecology at the Micro-Scale, and Rewetting Dry Soil. We are excited to have this great collection of sessions at the meeting this year and it truly shows the diversity of ESA’s microbial ecologists. As you get ready to travel to Baltimore for the centennial meeting, we encourage you to attend one of these sessions. You might be surprised to find microbial ecology in your own research!

In addition to bringing together a diverse collection of microbial ecologists, we have continually used the ESA meeting as an outreach opportunity. For a long time we have used our booth for outreach and education. Notably, we have presented the “Ecology of Beer” poster at our booth for years. However, our outreach spans past the eco-logical beverage of choice. In 2014 we established the ESA Microbial Ecology Composter Program with the help of an ESA Long Range Planning Grant. In its first year, we developed and donated a composter program to the Leataata Floyd Elementary School in Sacramento, CA. In addition to making the donation, we toured the school and school garden. While visiting, we learned how teachers will be using our composter program in educational and afterschool programs for inner city students. This was an amazing experience and we feel it allowed us to give back to the community. We used the experience gained in the first year to further develop our composter program. This year we are donating four composter programs to urban community gardens in Baltimore. We are excited to be expanding our program and to be giving back to the members of these communities. In addition, we have also developed the ESA Microbial Ecology Composting Educational Program, which includes teaching materials and activities. With our program, the Microbial Ecology Section will be able to connect with local communities as ESA moves from city to city. We hope boost awareness of ecology and microbial ecology in natural, managed, and urban environments.

Want to know more?

·  Visit our website (

·  Follow us on Twitter (@ESAMicrobe), and

·  Visit our booth at ESA100!

We are hosting our annual silent auction, the proceeds of which will support student travel awards. The auction will include the usual collection of stickers, buttons, shirts, and books. This year we have quite the collection of autographed books from great scientists like David Kirchman, Eldor Paul, and E.O. Wilson. In addition, we are fortunate this year to have great support from MoBio who has donated a collection of shirts and a $500 MoBio Gift Card – this could purchase your next MoBio Extraction Kit. So tell your advisor to come prepared!!!!!