Johnson, David Russell, Dr.

David Russell Johnson

Dr. David Russell Johnson
Molecular Microbial Ecology
BU F13
Überlandstrasse 133
8600 Dübendorf

Phone: +41 58 765 5520
Fax: +41 58 765 5547

Please see the extended research webpage of the Microbial Community Assembly Group here.

I only maintain a limited amount of information on this webpage.

Research Interests


My research focuses on deriving and testing general ecological principles that address the causes and consequences of microbial diversity. I seek to answer the following two central questions in microbial ecology:

I use a combination of experimental and environmental systems to address these questions. I investigate the causes of microbial diversity using experimental systems, with particular focus on metabolic specialization. The central hypothesis is that incompatibilities between different metabolic processes cause them to segregate into different cell types, thus promoting diversity. To test this hypothesis, I experimentally measure the effects of interactions between different metabolic processes and track their fate over evolutionary time-scales. I investigate the consequences of microbial diversity using environmental systems. The central hypothesis is that microbial diversity is an important determinant of functional performance. To test this hypothesis, I measure the rates and extents of different metabolic processes and test for associations with diversity. I then experimentally manipulate diversity and evaluate the consequences on different metabolic processes. My ultimate goal is to improve our understanding about how diversity is promoted in the environment and why diversity might be important for functional performance.

Current Research Projects

Can community transcription profiles be used to predict environmental biotransformation of organic contaminants? Fenner K, Johnson DR, Helbling DE. Swiss National Science Foundation. 2013-2016.

Predicting the biotransformation capacities of microbial communities from their taxonomic composition. Johnson DR, Park J, Fenner K. Korean-Swiss Science and Technology Cooperation. 2012-2013.

Predicting the metabolic profiles of cells from the topology of the universal metabolic network. Johnson DR. SystemsX program of the Swiss National Science Foundation. 2011-2013.

Cross-feeding and the maintenance of diversity in microbial ecosystems. Johnson DR. Swiss National Science Foundation. 2011-2014.


2009- Junior Group Leader, Molecular Microbial Ecology Group, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
2009- Adjunct Researcher, Department of Environmental Microbiology, Eawag, Dübendorf, Switzerland
2007-2009 Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Fundamental Microbiology, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
2004-2007 Guest Researcher, Ecology Department, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, USA
2002-2007 PhD Student, Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
2000-2002 MSE Student, Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
1996-2000 BS Student, Civil Engineering (Environmental Emphasis), Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA


Information about the Molecular Microbial Ecology group at ETH can be found here.
Information about the Department of Environmental Microbiology at Eawag can be found here.


link to my publication list


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