The oceans are the largest habitat on Earth, representing 80% of our biosphere. Nevertheless, we know relatively little about the deep ocean, in particular about the microbes — Archaea and Bacteria — that live there. To date, our knowledge of the role that marine microbes play in mediating biogeochemical cycles is limited because A) the vast majority have eluded cultivation, and B) the technical challenges of working the deep ocean (immense pressures and corrosively) have hindered our ability to conduct experiments in situ.

A more comprehensive understanding of microbially mediated biogeochemical processes requires a more thorough and quantitative investigation of marine microbial physiology and ecology, both in situ and ex situ. Here we present our research interests, study sites, and some of the approaches we have developed to conduct our research. We employ molecular microbiological and geochemical approaches to ally microbial identity with metabolic activity, and it is our goal to further our understanding of the microbial world through concerted, multidisciplinary research.

Research Interests

Microbial Ecological Physiology
Understanding the relationship between microbial ecology, physiology and the geochemical milieu at hydrothermal vents and hydrocarbon seeps.

Animal-Microbial Symbioses
Physiological and biochemical adaptation of microbes and their hosts to one another and the environment.

Extracellular Electron Transfer
Characterizing microbial EET in marine environments, and constraining the role of EET on global geochemical cycles.

Study Sites

Hydrothermal Vents
Vents are among the most extreme environments in our biosphere, host wondrous communities of microbes and animals, and some of the most productive habitats known.

Hydrocarbon Seeps
Substantial communities of microbes and animals, many of them living in symbiotic association, make a living off oil and natural gas.


In Situ Mass Spectrometer
An open-access, high-performance instrument that enables quantification of many dissolved gasses on the seafloor.

Laser Spectrometer
An unprecedented tool for analyzing methane isotopes in situ.

The In situ Macerator and Sample Homogenizer (iSMASH) allows for preservation of animal and microbial mRNA on the seafloor.

The high-pressure respirometry system (HPRS) and recovery vessel (HPRV) are used to study microbial and metabolic rates on board ship and in the lab.

Laboratory-based system for mimicking the conditions found in sediments from hydrocarbon seeps and other deep ocean environments.

Open Source

In the commercial marketplace, open source is a movement promotes universal access to a product's design or blueprint via a free license, and promotes subsequent improvements by anyone, with the expectation that these too will be open source. A main principle and practice of open-source development is peer collaboration and bartering, with the end-product and documentation available at no cost to the public. This approach is quite common in software development, and has been adopted to promote the development of “appropriate” technologies, and even drug discovery.

Advances in science, in particular those supported by public funds, are usually required to be publicly available. This policy even applies to the “raw” data used to generate the published results. We believe that technologies developed wholly with public funds should be made available as well, including associated designs and test data as appropriate. We strongly believe that an “open source” approach to disseminating technologies enables more rapid discovery and more efficient use of our community’s limited financial resources. When partnering with commercial entities, we make every effort to encourage “open source” approaches to development, and to ensure that any co-developed technologies are –at the very least- available to academic scientists at a reasonable price.