Meet the Faculty
Professor Mike Leonardo (biology)
Dr. Leonardo is a microbial physiologist and ecologist who is interested in anaerobic microorganisms and their metabolism. Some of the studies in Dr. Leonardo's lab focus on microorganisms in the genus Shewanella, which are found in most aquatic environments on the planet. One of the interesting aspects of Shewanella species is their ability to use ferric iron and sulfur compounds as electron acceptors for growth in the absence of oxygen. Growth under these conditions has been shown to induce corrosion of metals and concrete in which Shewanella has attached. Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), a major component in the development of biofilms on inert surfaces, are produced by Shewanella species, which appears to enhance the rate of iron and sulfur reduction. Shewanella mutants, defective in EPS synthesis, have been generated in the lab and they are currently being studied for their ability to induce corrosion. Other studies in Dr. Leonardo's lab use molecular techniques to study the microbial biodiversity in local ponds, streams and lakes.
Professor Paula Sanchini (biology)
Dr. Sanchini is a community ecologist interested in landscape patterns and biodiversity. Faulke's Heritage Woods is the largest tract of undisturbed forest in Linn County, Iowa. In 1987, an analysis was completed of vegetation designed to give a snapshot of the condition of the forest against which future changes could be measured. This study now offers students a rich GIS database through which they can investigate oak decline and urban deer impacts. Dr. Sanchini's students are helping the city of Cedar Rapids study the condition of the urban forest through a U.S. Forest Service program called iTREE.
Research opportunities with Dr. St. Clair are in the general area of environmental chemistry. An ongoing study investigates the nitrogen budget for the Cedar River between Cedar Rapids and Waterloo. Samples are analyzed for a variety of nitrogen and phosphorus containing species using both chromatographic and spectroscopic methods. Results are then correlated with watershed characteristics such as land use, soil type and precipitation. Questions to be addressed in this project include the dynamics of nutrient interconversion, the significance of groundwater recharge versus surface flow and the importance of non-nutrient species as biological limiting factors.