The Hunt Lab, led by Dana Hunt, associate professor of microbial ecology, focuses on understanding the ecology of microbes through examination of their genes and lifestyles. Specifically, the lab is studying bacterial interactions with the environment at the appropriate temporal and spatial scale including the effect of temperature changes on bacterial populations and bacterial interactions with other organisms. Another area of active research is the response and adaptation of bacteria to emerging pollutants such as antibiotics and nanomaterials.

Ph.D. student Bertram Ji recently shared insights into the Hunt Lab, its research, his experience in the lab and the opportunities the lab offers Duke students.

What is the lab's research focus and what big questions is it trying to answer? 

Lab member collects sample off pier on Piver's Island

"Microbes are the drivers of biogeochemical cycling and the productivity of the oceans, and the Hunt Lab’s research seeks to better understand the diversity and dynamics of these engines of Earth’s systems. Much of our work focuses on the Piver’s Island Coastal Observatory (PICO) a 15+ year weekly time series based at the Duke Marine Lab. We combine field observations with manipulative experiments and model systems to better understand how long-term environmental changes (e.g. ocean acidification and warming) as well as pulse disturbances such as hurricanes shape the marine microbiome. Additionally, we are developing a synthetic microbiome to explore how microbes compete and cooperate in degrading organic matter resources. Recently, Dana Hunt has spent her sabbatical (Spring 2024) as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Technology Sydney to integrate our research with Australia’s national marine observing system."

What has been your favorite or most rewarding experience in the lab so far? 

"As a first year Ph.D. student, I basically had Zoom meetings with Dana since my first year base was in Durham, but she gave me a lot of advice on my studies and life, and helped me settle into Duke life quickly. I have also been hosted by our collaborators in the Gibert Lab (Biology)."

What opportunities does your lab offer students and how does that experience contribute to their academic and career growth? 

“Graduate students are strongly encouraged to get involved in our local community including developing K-12 curricula for local schools and developing demonstrations for our annual Marine Lab open house.” 

Hunt Lab members raising sun hats aloft outside at Duke Marine Lab

Each month the Nicholas School will highlight the work of one of its labs through the lens of a lab member. For more information on Duke Environment research visit our research page and to keep up with the latest news, subscribe to our monthly Research + Impact email newsletter. Explore more about the Hunt Lab on its website.