People

Photo of the Holben Lab Staff

Faculty

Photo of Bill Holben, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Bill Holben
Lab Position
Lab Director – Microbial Ecology
Current Research
My research interests and expertise are in the areas of molecular microbial ecology, molecular genetics, and environmental microbiology. I am primarily interested in assessing community-level responses and interactions between microbes, other trophic levels, and the environment. Relevant current and emerging projects include using microflora as markers for biogeographical analysis of animal populations, determining the microbial community composition and ecology of animal gastrointestinal (GI) tracts, and ecophysiological studies of animals to assess effects of diet, behavior, disease, and other parameters on GI microflora (and vice versa). My group is also involved in a number of related research topics including linking bacterial community structure, function, activity and diversity in metal-contaminated and pristine river sediment systems; exploring the role of the soil microbial community in the success of invasive weeds; examining the role of charcoal from forest fires in controlling the distribution and activity of nitrifying bacteria in forest soils; and assessing the fate and transport of microbes in the environment. Our recent research has striven to integrate robust statistical and modeling components to effectively interpret large and often complex data sets derived from molecular analysis of microbial community responses to a variety of parameters. Many projects in the lab cross disciplinary boundaries, uniting aspects of microbial ecology with animal physiology and pathology, biogeochemistry, population ecology, plant ecology, and other areas.
E-mail
bill.holben@mso.umt.edu

Doctors

Photo of Sergio Morales, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Dr. Sergio E. Morales
Lab Position
Post-Doctoral Researcher – Microbial Ecology
Current Research
My current research focus lies in studying bacterial communities in various ecosystems by means of molecular methods (clone libraries, q-PCR and T-RFLP targeting 16S rDNA). Our main research site is a National Science Foundation Long Term Ecological Research Site (LTER) at the Kellogg Biological Station (KBS), Southwest Michigan, USA. Our initial large scale clone library will serve as a starting point for development of tools and methods to further explore bacterial community response to an array of manipulations (both chemical and physical). This will allow us to see the effects such manipulations have on common ecological parameters including but not limited to diversity indexes, evenness, and richness estimations.
« Dr. Sergio E. Morales Current Research Project »
E-mail
sergio.morales@mso.umt.edu

Photo of Jennifer Lowell, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Dr. Jennifer L. Lowell
Lab Position
Post-Doctor Research – Microbial Ecology
Current Research
As part of the Nyack Microbial Observatory Project, I use DNA fingerprinting and real time-PCR to analyze complex microbial communities and their interactions within ecologically diverse aquatic environments. This includes characterizing the bacterial biofilm communities from the hyporheic sediments within the Nyack flood plain, located on the middle fork of the Flathead River in north western MT. Microbes within the hyporheic zone are important in biogeochemical cycling of allochtonous nutrient inputs, may govern food chain length, and are vital to whole stream ecosystem function and biodiversity. My aim is to determine how physicochemical changes in the hyporheic zone drive bacterial community structure and function.
E-mail
jennifer.lowell@mso.umt.edu

Graduate Students

Photo of Margie A. Kinnersley, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Margie A. Kinnersley
Lab Position
Ph.D. Candidate – Integrative Microbiology & Physiology
Current Research
My dissertation research with the Holben Lab addresses the basic question of how biochemical measures of diversity correlate with environmental differences and combines this assessment with an investigation of how potential biomarkers that discriminate between host species can be used to advance the field of microbial source tracking. I am currently working on a comprehensive analysis of genetic and physiological diversity between strains of E. coli from different selective environments (i.e. the intestinal environments of different animal species). I feel that this line of inquiry is likely to yield significant insights into microbial natural history and population variation and is an important step toward integrating high-throughput laboratory techniques into the study of microbial ecology.
E-mail
margie.kinnersley@grizmail.umt.edu

Photo of Philip Drummond, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Philip Drummond
Lab Position
Ph.D. Student – Integrative Microbiology and Biochemistry
Current Research
My interests lie in studying and understanding the role Archaea play in temperate environments. This is accomplished using both molecular work as well as enrichment culturing. My current research is on the diversity of microbes that exist along nutrient gradients within the Nyack floodplain. The Nyack floodplain is a hyporheic zone, in which surface river water mixes with ground water creating an area where nutrients are cycled and fed back to the river. My research goal is to investigate the diversity of aerobic archaeal and bacterial nitrifiers as well as anaerobic bacterial nitrifiers (anammox) in the Nyack and further add to the knowledge of these unique and vital environments within a river system.
E-mail
flipdrum@yahoo.com

Photo of Michael Ceballos, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Michael Ceballos
Lab Position
Ph.D. Candidate – Microbial Ecology
Current Research
The general focus of my research is characterizing how biophysical properties of protein complexes result in change in protein function. The first system that I began studying was the heterodimer lentivirus reverse transcriptase. In particularly, I am interested in how stability in RT heterodimers from non-pathogenic cougar Feline Immunodeficiency Virus strains compares to the stability of RT subtypes from the pathogenic FIV strains found in domestic cats. A second area of research is the study of stress proteins in hyperthermoacidophiles, namely Sulfolobus spp. Heat-shock proteins (HSPs) in extremophilic archaea are believed to protect these microorganisms from low pH and high temperature environmental challenges. I am interested in characterizing the biophysical properties of HSPs, how biochemical changes in HSP composition vary between sub-species, and the possible role of stress proteins in the presence of a viral challenge.
E-mail
rcmichael.ceballos@umontana.edu

Photo of Jarrod L. Pollock, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Jarrod L. Pollock
Lab Position
Ph.D. Candidate – Microbial Ecology
Current Research
My work focuses on an allelopathic chemical, (±)-catechin, that is produced by an invasive plant species Centaurea maculosa (spotted knapweed). The invasive success of spotted knapweed is attributed in part to this root exudate as it has been demonstrated to have both phytotoxic and bacteriostatic effects on the surrounding soil community. My experiments have demonstrated a differential effect of catechin on both microbial and plant populations as a result of various environmental conditions. I intend to elucidate some of these mechanisms during my PhD studies in an attempt to discern the potential range of invasion for spotted knapweed and to suggest possible remediative strategies.
E-mail
jarrod.pollock@grizmail.umt.edu

Photo of Marnie Rout, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Marnie Rout
Lab Position
Ph.D. Candidate
Current Research
The primary focus of my research is on plant-soil-microbial interactions. I am particularly interested in the role of microbes in plant invasions. Invasive plants can utilize various mechanisms contributing to their successful invasion and persistence. I studied the allelopathic impacts of the invasive grass, Sorghum halepense, during my M.S. degree. The dramatic changes to the plant community structure of prairie ecosystems undergoing S. halepense invasion are evident. Through this research, I became interested in how invasive plants, like S. halepense, can also alter ecosystem functions, particularly changes in nutrient cycling. My current doctoral research is aimed at understanding the mechanisms underlying changes to the biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial systems in the context of plant invasions. This work focuses largely on the role of microorganisms involved in the nitrogen cycle and plant-microbial mutualisms.
E-mail
marnie.rout@grizmail.com

Undergraduate Students

Photo of Tyler Hurst, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Tyler Hurst
Lab Position
Undergraduate Researcher
Current Research
I am an undergraduate at the University of Montana, my field of interest is Pre-Medical sciences, but I am also interested in possibly pursuing a Masters in microbiology. This semester I will be working with Sergio Morales on a mutation study looking at rDNA copy number. I am keen on shaping my limited lab skills and learning many new lab techniques.

Photo of Tyler Hurst, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Megan Neumiller
Lab Position
Undergraduate Researcher
Current Research
My position in the lab allows me to become familiar with techniques which could be of benefit in future occupations.

Photo of Janna Smith, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Janna Smith
Lab Position
Undergraduate Researcher
Current Research
I am interested in looking at plant-microbial mutualisms in plant invasions. My research is a component of the work being done by Marnie E. Rout. Her work focuses on invasive plants and factors driving the invasion process. We are currently looking at the possibility that some invasive plants can harbor bacterial endophytes that contribute to the invasive properties of the plant. My research is specifically trying to determine if these bacterial endophytes are being vertically transmitted to seeds.

Photo of Kim Varvel, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Kim Varvel
Lab Position
Undergraduate Researcher
Current Research
Linking Escherichia coli Mutation Frequency and Rate with Environment

Photo of Tara Stein, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Tara Stein
Lab Position
Undergraduate Researcher
Current Research
I'm an undergraduate and my major is in Anthropology. The job posting seemed that it could help me with lab experience, performing tasks like inventory and maintenance of consumables in addition to washing glassware. I really enjoy helping out around the lab. I have learned new skills and get to work with really great people along the way.

Photo of Wade See, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Wade See
Lab Position
Undergraduate Researcher
Current Research
Prevalence and epidemiological implications of asymptomatic Clostridium difficile in a large hospital.

Research Staff

Photo of Linda Schimmelpfennig, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Linda Schimmelpfennig
Lab Position
Laboratory manager and research specialist
Email
linda.s@mso.umt.edu

Photo of Linda Schimmelpfennig, a member of the Holben Lab
Name
Tara K. Westlie
Lab Position
Research technician
Email
tara.westlie@mso.umt.edu and