Jennifer Pechal

Assistant Professor

Jennifer Pechal

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

Giltner Hall
293 Farm Lane Road, Room 340
East Lansing, MI 48824

Phone: 517-355-6514

Click here to see a list of Jennifer Pechal's publications on Google Scholar.


My research interests are focused on insect-microbe interactions across ecosystems and decomposition ecology. I am interested in the use of next generation genomic methodologies to answer both basic and applied research questions focused on the successional changes of microbial communities commonly associated with insects in aquatic and terrestrial habitats.

Current assignment: Research 90% | Teaching 10%

Program Description


My current teaching program consists of co-teaching a one-credit advanced undergraduate/graduate course on “Forensic Applications of the Necrobiome.” Students will learn about the interactions within the community of necrophagous organisms, defined as the necrobiome (e.g., necrophagous insects and microbes), during decomposition of animal carrion and human corpses.


I am interested in basic research questions focused on insect-microbe interactions using an interdisciplinary research approach. My research interests, background and experiences have developed into a comprehensive ecological, genomic, bioinformatic and statistic analytical “toolbox.” This toolbox allows me to pursue a range of research topics using high-throughput genomic techniques (e.g., amplicon based sequencing).

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, from agricultural crops to freshwater streams to forested habitats. I am also interested in exploring other research avenues that have more directed and applied research questions to solve real-world problems (e.g., insects as alternative protein sources, insect use for organic biodegradation and use of the human post-mortem microbiome for use in forensic investigations). Currently, I am funded by the National Institute of Justice to characterize the human post-mortem microbial community structure from cadavers during routine death investigations. 


  • Insect Ecology
  • Microbe Ecology
  • Community Dynamics
  • Micro- and Macro-organism Trophic Interactions
  • Ephemeral Resource Decomposition
  • High-Throughput Sequencing (“-Omics”) Technologies

Professional Experience

  • 2015-Present – Assistant Professor, Fixed Term, Department of Entomology, Michigan State University
  • 2013-2014 – Research Associate, Department of Entomology, Michigan State University
  • 2012-2013 – Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Biology, University of Dayton

Selected Publications

  • 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
  • Finley, SJ, JL Pechal, ME Benbow, BK Robertson, and GT Javan. 2015. Microbial signatures of cadaver gravesoil across decomposition. Microbial Ecology. DOI: 10.1007/s00248-015-0725-1
  • Benbow, ME, and JL Pechal. 2015. Microbial Interactions of the Necrobiome: Basic Research and Forensic Applications. Microbiologist. 16 (3): 26-29.
  • 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, JK Tomberlin, TL Crippen, AM Tarone, B Singh, and PA Lenhart. 2015. Field documentation of unusual postmortem wound infliction on human remains by arthropods. Journal of Medical Entomology. 52(1): 105–108. DOI: 10.1093/jme/tju012
  • Pechal, JL, HE Moore, F Drijfhout, and ME Benbow. 2014. Hydrocarbon profiles throughout adult Calliphoridae aging: A promising tool for forensic entomology Forensic Science International. 245: 65-71. DOI: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2014.10.019
  • 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
  • Benbow, ME, AJ Lewis, JK Tomberlin, and JL Pechal. 2013. Seasonal Necrophagous Insect Community Assembly During Vertebrate Carrion Decomposition. Journal of Medical Entomology 50(2): 440-450. DOI: 10.1603/ME12194.