Jennifer Pechal

Jennifer Pechal

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Assistant Professor



PhD - Texas A&M University (2012)
MS - Texas A&M University (2008)
BS - Sam Houston State University (2006)

See a list of Jennifer Pechal's publications on Google Scholar.

Web: Jen Pechal Lab.


My research interests are focused on insect-microbe interactions across ecosystems and decomposition ecology. I use high-throughput “-omics” and machine learning approaches to answer both basic and applied research questions, specifically focused on the successional changes of microbial communities associated with insects and decomposing organic materials.

Current assignment: Research 95% | Teaching 5%

Program Description


My current teaching program consists of graduate seminar courses. Either a 1 credit advanced undergraduate/graduate course on “Forensic Applications of the Necrobiome” or a 1 credit graduate level course on “Scientific Writing”.


My program is focused on using an interdisciplinary research approach to better understand insect-microbe interactions during decomposition. Specifically, my research is centered on those questions to better understand the biological mechanics governing decomposition across ecosystems, which is a vital biological process for all ecosystems, including agricultural crops to freshwater streams to forested habitats. The knowledge gained through basic research allows further research avenues to be explored with more directed and applied research questions to solve real-world problems. For example, how insects can be used as alternative protein sources at a global scale, how insects can improve waste management practices, and the use of the human post-mortem microbiome for use in death investigations. Insects can solve many problems, and the work being performed in my lab strives to maximize the positive impacts insects can have to improve lives.


  • Insect Ecology
  • Microbe Ecology
  • Community Dynamics
  • Decomposition
  • High-Throughput Sequencing (“-Omics”) Technologies
  • Forensics

Professional Experience

  • Jan 2015 — Present:       Assistant Professor, Fixed Term, Dept. of Entomology – Michigan State University

  • Nov 2013 — Dec 2014: Research Associate, Dept. of Entomology – Michigan State University

  • May 2012 — Oct 2013: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Dept. of Biology – University of Dayton

Selected Publications

  • Benbow, ME, PS Barton, MD Ulyshen, JC Beasley, TL DeVault, MS Strickland, JK Tomberlin, HR Jordan, and JL Pechal. (2018) The Necrobiome: A Unifying Framework for Understanding Decomposer Community Structure and Function. Ecological Monographs. 89(1): e01331. doi:10.1002/ecm.1331
  • Pechal, JL, CJ Schmidt, HR Jordan, and ME Benbow (2018) The Postmortem Human Microbiome Provides Insight into the Living Health Condition. Scientific Reports. 8(1): 5724. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-23989-w
  • Singh, B, KJ Minick, MS Strickland, KG Wickings, TL Crippen, AM Tarone, ME Benbow, N Sufrin, JK Tomberlin, and JL Pechal (2018) Temporal and Spatial Impact of Human Cadaver Decomposition on Soil Bacterial and Arthropod Community Structure and Function. Frontiers in Microbiology. 8: 2616.
  • Pechal, JL, and ME Benbow. 2015. Microbial ecology of the salmon necrobiome: Evidence salmon carrion decomposition influences aquatic and terrestrial insect microbiomes. Environmental Microbiology. DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.13187
  • Benbow, ME, JL Pechal, JM Lang, R Erb, and RJ Wallace. 2015. The potential of high-throughput metagenomic sequencing of aquatic bacterial communities to estimate the postmortem submersion interval. Journal of Forensic Sciences. 60(6): 1500–1510. DOI: 10.1111/1556-4029.12859
  • Pechal, JL, ME Benbow, TL Crippen, AM Tarone, and JK Tomberlin. 2014. Delayed insect access alters carrion decomposition and necrophagous insect community assembly. Ecosphere 5(4): art45. DOI: 10.1890/ES14-00022.1
  • Pechal, JL, TL Crippen, ME Benbow, AM Tarone, S Dowd, and JK Tomberlin. 2014. The potential use of bacterial community succession in forensics as described by high throughput metagenomic sequencing. International Journal of Legal Medicine 128(1): 193-205. DOI: 10.1007/s00414-013-0872-1.
  • Pechal, JL, TL Crippen, AM Tarone, AJ Lewis, JK Tomberlin, and ME Benbow. 2013. Microbial Community Functional Change During Vertebrate Carrion Decomposition. PLOS ONE 8(11): e79035. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079035