Zarraz Lee

Title Post-doctoral Research Scientist

I am a microbial ecologist who seeks to understand how microbes with different life strategies interact with each other and how they respond to changes in their environment. My graduate study at Michigan State University was devoted to exploring bacterial growth efficiencies, the allocation of substrate consumed for biomass synthesis or respiration, in different growth conditions and in soil under different land management.

In the Elser lab, I am involved in a project that investigates how microbial communities respond to changes in their resource stoichiometry. The area of study for this project is at Cuatro Cienegas, Mexico; a desert valley with high diversity of microbes that are known to survive under nutrient limited condition, especially phosphorus limitation, for extended period of time. The current goal is to determine the life strategies of microbes that dominate this harsh habitat. This will help us to better understand how microbes are involved in cycling or conserving the limiting nutrient.

I am also involved in maintaining the rrnDB (, an online catalogue of ribosomal RNA operon (rrn operon) and tRNA gene copy numbers in Bacteria and Archaea. This database was initiated because ribosomal RNA operon copy number is a good indicator of the ecological strategies of bacteria, where high rrn operon copy number organisms tend to have fast growth rate while bacteria with one or two copies often exhibit oligotrophy.