What happens to us after we die? A decomposing corpse becomes its own mini-ecosystem, hosting insects, scavengers and multitudes of microbes. Microbes from the environment, the corpse, as well as the insects and scavengers are blended together and work to recycle tissues back to their constituents. Dr. Jennifer DeBruyn discusses the fascinating process of human decomposition, and how scientists are using that information to inform forensic science, livestock mortality management and fossilization.
Jennifer DeBruyn, PhD
Department of Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science
The University of Tennessee
Decomposition is one of the most important functions that microbes perform in our environment. As microbial ecologists, Dr. DeBruyn and her lab seek to understand how microbial communities work to recycle inputs in terrestrial environments. Understanding decomposition and biodegradation is key to developing better solutions for waste disposal, environmental bioremediation, and predicting ecosystem response to perturbations.
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