David G. Schmale III, an associate professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science, conducts research using drones — also called unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs — to explore microbial life in the atmosphere.

Schmale and colleagues have used research drones to track the movement of dangerous microorganisms that surf atmospheric waves. These atmospheric waves collect, mix, and shuffle microorganisms across cities, states, and even countries.

This research has deepened our understanding of the flow of life in the atmosphere, and has contributed unique tools for scientific exploration in the burgeoning field of aeroecology.