Deric Learman and students in the lab​Welcome to the Learman Environmental Microbiology Lab at Central Michigan University.

The lab focuses on understanding how microbes (single strains or microbial communities) control biogeochemical cycles in various environments, ranging from oceans, lakes, to sediments. The lab utilizes a range of techniques in microbial ecology, physiology, genomics, and geochemistry.

  • Deric Learman
    Principal Investigator
    Professor
    Department of Biology/Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
    Institute for Great Lakes Research
    Biosciences 3111

    989.774.4409
  • Jessica Zehnpfennig
    Jessica Zehnpfennig
    M.S. Candidate - Biology
    B.S. Central Michigan University
  • Allison Brookshier Jack Mouradain
    M.S. Candidate - Biology
    B.S. UW - Milwaukee
  • Former Students

    Dean J. Horton - Ph.D. Earth & Ecosystem Science (2018)
    Dissertation title, “Examining the impacts of natural and anthropogenic disturbances on microbial communities in freshwater ecosystems.” 

    Shanker Tamang - M.S. Biology (2017) 
    Thesis title, “Determining the influence of carbon and nitrogen metabolism on Mn(II) oxidation.” 

    Michael W. HensonM.S. Biology (2014), Thesis title, “Connecting Function and Ecology: Defining Bacterial Cr(VI) Pathways in the Environment and Laboratory

    Victoria Hewitt - Environmental Science Major

    Allison Brookshier - Biochemistry Major 

    Zahra AhmadB.A. Journalism Major and Biology Minor (2018) 

    Miranda HengyB.S. Biology Major (2017) 

    Adam ByrneB.S. Environmental Health and Safety Major (2016) 

    James DunnB.S. Biochemistry Major (2015) 

    Sarah PhillipsB.S. Biomedical Science Major (2015)

    Sam StrahlB.S. Geology Major (2015) 

    Nathan YoungB.S. Biology Major (2014) 

    Ethan WologoB.S. Geology Major (2013)

Impacts of diel light intensity changes on marine microbial life in productive ocean communities

Our current understanding of the complex and dynamic ocean ecosystem is limited due to single time of day sampling “snapshots”. Therefore, to examine how light/temperature and other daily variant conditions impact microbial communities in ocean waters, the lab has sampled the productive coastal water at various locations, depths, and times throughout the day (pre-sunrise to post sunset). DNA and RNA from the samples will be examined using high-throughput sequencing techniques to identify the microorganisms present in ocean communities (DNA) and also evaluate the community metabolism (RNA, metatranscriptomics). These data will be applied to determine how the diversity of these communities changes as well as how shifts in gene expression throughout the day are potentially impacting biogeochemical cycles.

Biogeochemistry and microbial community structure in Great Lakes wetlands

The biogeochemical cycling of greenhouse gases (such as N2O and CH4) and essential nutrients (e.g. carbon and nitrogen) are catalyzed by a diverse group microorganisms within wetlands. There are greater than 2,000 coastal wetlands in the Laurentian Great Lakes, despite a 50% reduction driven by anthropogenic habitat destruction. In one project, we are exploring these critical ecosystems to better understand the microbial communities and biogeochemical processes they govern. In a second project, we are examining how natural forces, such as diel O2 fluctuations, can impact community structure and function.

Microbial geochemistry of marine sediments from western Antarctica

Western Antarctica is currently one of the fastest warming locations on Earth. The melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will alter regional water temperature and salinity. These changes will inevitably impact the microorganisms that inhabit these environments and govern the biogeochemical cycles (e.g. carbon, nitrogen, sulfur) that are essential for this thriving ecosystem. By using next-generation sequencing techniques, this work will define what microorganisms inhabit sediments off the west coast of Antarctica. In addition, metagenomic analysis of these sediments will be able to identify the functional genes that are found in these sediments. Thus, this work will be able to define what organisms are abundant in these locations and also what mechanisms they are using (functional genes) to drive crucial biogeochemical cycles.

Defining novel bacterial Mn(II) oxidation mechanisms

Manganese(III,IV) oxide minerals are among the strongest sorbents and oxidants in the environment. Despite the importance of Mn oxides in controlling countless biogeochemical cycles, we have only a vague understanding of the biotic and abiotic pathways responsible for their formation in the environment and the underlying mechanisms involved. We have shown that a common marine bacterium, Roseobacter sp. AzwK-3b, oxidizes Mn(II) to solid phase Mn oxide minerals via the production of extracellular superoxide. Our current work is using a two pronged approach, genetics and proteomics, to determine how R. AzwK-3b generates superoxide and mediates Mn(II) oxidation and the production of Mn oxide minerals.

Graduate Students

Description: Potential graduate student wishing to pursue a Master of Science degree in Biology or a PhD in Earth and Ecosystem Science with an emphasis in Environmental Microbiology at Central Michigan University. Accepted applicants will work with Dr. Deric Learman on interdisciplinary projects directed towards understanding the genetics and physiology of microorganisms that control biogeochemical cycles (manganese, iron, and chromium) in various environments, ranging from lakes to soils.

Interested candidates should contact Dr. Deric Learman directly with a statement of interest and current CV. Successful applicants will have a Bachelors of Science in Biology, or Geology (or related field) with Biology course work. Previous laboratory or undergraduate research experience is desired. Possible start date for incoming students is summer or fall (start date negotiable).

Information and application materials for the Master of Science in Biology at CMU are available by clicking here

Information and application materials for the PhD in Earth and Ecosystem Science at CMU are available by clicking here

To be eligible for consideration, students must be admitted to the Graduate School at CMY. Click here for more information on admission to CMU's Graduate Programs

If interested, please contact Deric at deric.learman@cmich.edu
GelC MS/MS Data
Raw data for Learman and Hansel, 2014
Roseobacter sp. AzwK-3b, Raw data
Ruegeria sp. TM1040, Raw data

Antarctic sediment OTU table
OTU table for Learman et al., 2016
OTU_table.xlsx
Deric, Mike Henson, and James Dunn at the annual ASM meetingDeric, Mike Henson, and James Dunn at the annual ASM meeting
Sarah Phillips (middle) working with K-12 teachers at our summer GeoMicrobiology workshopSarah Phillips (middle) working with K-12 teachers at our summer GeoMicrobiology workshop
K-12 teachers from Beal City, Mt. Pleasant, and Harbor Beach setting up some Winogradsky columns at our summer GeoMicrobiology wK-12 teachers from Beal City, Mt. Pleasant, and Harbor Beach setting up some Winogradsky columns at our summer GeoMicrobiology workshop
Deric and Miranda Hengy sampling water on Lake Geneserath (Beaver Island, MI)Deric and Miranda Hengy sampling water on Lake Geneserath (Beaver Island, MI)
Deric and CMUBS students looking over some Lake Michigan benthic sediments taken from the R/V Chippewa. Smell that metabolism Deric and CMUBS students looking over some Lake Michigan benthic sediments taken from the R/V Chippewa. Smell that metabolismDeric and CMUBS students looking over some Lake Michigan benthic sediments taken from the R/V Chippewa. Smell that metabolism
Sarah presenting at the CMU’s Student Research and Creative Endeavors Exhibition (2015)Sarah presenting at the CMU’s Student Research and Creative Endeavors Exhibition (2015)
Dean sampling wetlands on Beaver Island, MI exampleDean sampling wetlands on Beaver Island, MI example
Shanker sampling wetlands on Beaver Island, MIShanker sampling wetlands on Beaver Island, MI
Mike in the field at Poyang Lake, ChinaMike in the field at Poyang Lake, China
Zahra presenting at the Spring 2016 Michigan ASM MeetingZahra presenting at the Spring 2016 Michigan ASM Meeting
Sam presenting at the CMU's Student Research and Creative Endeavors Exhibition (2015)
Michigan ASM MeetingMichigan ASM Meeting
Mike and Ethan looking over their MI-ASM posterMike and Ethan looking over their MI-ASM poster
Ethan presenting at the Capital building (Lansing, MI)Ethan presenting at the Capital building (Lansing, MI)
Deric presenting at a symposium in ChinaDeric presenting at a symposium in China
Deric in the field at Poyang Lake, ChinaDeric in the field at Poyang Lake, China
Deric sampling a phytoplankton bloom in coastal New JerseyDeric sampling a phytoplankton bloom in coastal New Jersey