The Environmental Soil Microbiology Research Program focuses on three areas, which are described below.
1). Microbial water quality: This area focuses on agricultural and urban sources of fecal contamination to water bodies. As a result, it addresses issues critical to both the urban and rural inhabitants of Georgia. The emphasis is particularly on land application of animal waste and onsite wastewater treatment systems, which are considered among the most common sources of fecal contamination in fresh water and estuary systems.
2). Ecology of human pathogens in soil: The fate and transport of human pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella spp. in soil is of particular interest from food and water safety stand points. Dr. Habteselassie’s laboratory specializes in the use of molecular markers to study the survival of these pathogens in soil and their transmission to water bodies and freshly eaten produce, focusing on pre-harvest agricultural practices. The ultimate goal is to identify factors that can be used as predictors of the survival of human enteric pathogens in soils under different agricultural management practices.
3). Soil nitrogen cycle: Dr. Habteselassie’s research effort in this area is on the ecology and molecular microbiology of ammonia oxidizing bacteria and archaea. These groups of organisms play a crucial role in mediating the first and rate limiting step of nitrification that produces nitrate and nitrous oxide, which are of concern from agricultural and environmental perspectives.