Joseph Vallino



Research Projects

microbial communities

NASA Astrobiology Project. This project combines ecosystem thermodynamic model development with microcosm experiments to study how microbial communities organize to dissipate energy gradients.

Plum Island chart

NSF Plum Island Ecosystems Long Term Ecological Research (PIE-LTER) Program. In the large multi-disciplinary, multi-investigator PIE-LTER program, I couple estuarine hydrodynamic models with biogeochemistry models to study chemistry and energy flows through land margin ecosystems.

Senior Scientist
Tel: 508-289-7648 | Fax: 508-457-1548

Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1991
M.S., California Institute of Technology, 1985
B.S., University of California, Berkeley, 1983

Vallino CV

Research Statement

My research emphasis concerns whole ecosystem chemistry associated with biological structure synthesis and energy utilization that underlies the development of living systems. Since the majority of metabolic diversity lies almost entirely within microorganisms, my investigations currently target microbial systems, which have the added benefit of fast characteristic timescales that can be studied in the laboratory. The question I am most concerned with is what governs the expression of metabolic function (such as photosynthesis, methanogenesis, nitrogen fixation, etc.) that is orchestrated by the entire microbial consortium? Are the rates of ecosystem metabolic reactions governed by just happenstance depending on which organisms are present, or is the overall chemistry of the system determined by fundamental principles? Current theories in non-equilibrium thermodynamics support the conjecture that systems organize to maximize entropy production (MEP). I am currently exploring whether MEP can be used to describe microbial biogeochemistry, using laboratory microcosms as experimental systems.

While the microcosm experiments are useful for testing new theories, such as MEP, ultimately, knowledge obtained from laboratory-based research is used to develop more robust applied biogeochemistry models. The biogeochemistry models are coupled with 1D, 2D and 3D hydrodynamic models to describe how ecosystems utilize and process environmental resources. I use data assmilation techniques to calibrate and test these large-scale models against observations and experiments from field-based research projects. The Plum Island Ecosystems Long Term Ecological Research Program provides an excellent means to test new ideas and models derived from them.

Recent Publications:

Fernandez-Gonzalez, N., Huber, J.A., Vallino, J.J.  2016.  Microbial communities are well adapted to disturbances in energy input. mSystems 1 (5), 15 pp., doi: 10.1128/mSystems.00117-16.

Vallino, J.J. and Algar, C.K.  2016.  Thermodynamics of Marine Biogeochemical Cycles: Lotka Revisited. Ann. Rev. Mar. Sci. 8, 333-356, doi: 10.1146/annurev-marine-010814-015843.

Chapman, E.J., Childers, D.L. and Vallino, J.J.  2016. How The Second Law of Thermodynamics has informed ecosystem ecology through its history. BioScience 66 (1), 27-39, doi: 10.1093/biosci/biv166.

Rastetter, E.B. and Vallino, J.J.  2015.  Ecosystem's 80th and the Reemergence of Emergence. Ecosystems 18 (5), 735-739, doi: 10.1007/s10021-015-9893-6.

Algar, C.K. and Vallino, J.J.  2014.  Predicting microbial nitrate reduction pathways in coastal sediments. Aquat.Microb.Ecol. 71 (3): 223-238, doi: 10.3354/ame01678

Vallino, J.J., Algar, C.K., Fernandez Gonzalez, N., Huber, J.A.  2014.  Use of receding horizon optimal control to solve MaxEP-based biogeochemistry problems. In Beyond the Second Law: Entropy Production and Non-Equilibrium Systems, Dewar, R.C., Lineweaver, C., Niven, R. and Regenauer-Lieb, K.,  (eds), Springer, pp 337-359, doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-40154-1_18.

Bowden, W. B., B. J. Peterson, L. A. Deegan, A. D. Huryn, J. P. Benstead, H. Golden, M. Kendrick, S. M. Parker, E. Schuett, J. J. Vallino, and J. E. Hobbie. 2014. Ecology of Streams of the Toolik Region. Pages 173-237 in J. E. Hobbie and G. W. Kling, editors. Alaska's Changing Arctic: Ecological Consequences for Tundra, Streams, and Lakes. Oxford University Press, New York.

Dunaj, Sara; Vallino, Joseph; Hines, Mark; Gay, Marcus; Kobyljanec, Christine; Rooney-Varga, Juliette. 2012. Relationships between soil organic matter, nutrients, bacterial community structure, and the performance of microbial fuel cells. Environ. Sci. Technol. 46 (3):1914-1922, doi: 10.1021/es2032532.

Vallino,J.J. 2011. Differences and implications in biogeochemistry from maximizing entropy production locally versus globally. Earth Syst. Dynam. 2, 69-85, doi: 10.5194/esd-2-69-2011.

Xia, Li C., Steele, Joshua A., Cram, Jacob A., Cardon, Zoe G., Simmons, Sheri L., Vallino, Joseph J., Fuhrman, Jed A., Sun, Fengzhu. 2011. Extended local similarity analysis (eLSA) of microbial community and other time series data with replicates. BMC Systems Biology, 5(Suppl 2):S15, 12 pp., doi: 10.1186/1752-0509-5-S2-S15.

Zhao,L., Chen, C., Vallino, J., Hopkinson, C., Beardsley, R.C., Lin, H., and Lerczak, J. 2010. Wetland-estuarine-shelf interactions in the Plum Island Sound and Merrimack River in the Massachusetts Coast. JGR-Oceans, 115, C10039, 13 pp. doi:10.1029/2009JC006085.

Vallino, J.J. 2010. Ecosystem biogeochemistry considered as a distributed metabolic network ordered by maximum entropy production. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 365, 1417-1427, doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0272.

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