Microbial communities shape our world in unseen, yet significant ways: they are climate regulators, ecosystem engineers, nutrient recyclers, and rock-builders. The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in the detection of previously unknown microbiomes and the description of new lineages, even in the most inhospitable and unexpected of environments. However, efforts to understand their functionality and metabolic activities, – the true impact that microbes have on their surroundings – have simply not kept pace.
Our researchers investigate microbial communities through the lens of metabolic activity: what are they doing, how are they doing it through interspecies interactions, and what does their collective action mean for our planet? To do so, we develop novel incubation and microscopy approaches to interrogate microbial assemblages in their natural habitats and native spatial configurations. As we study salt marshes, geothermal sites, and deep-sea methane seeps around the world, we seek to understand how microbe-microbe and microbe-mineral interactions influence metabolic activity. Current projects include the use of NMR and stable isotope probing to build an energetics-flux model of methane oxidation in methane seep communities; the pursuit of novel metabolisms at volcanic fumaroles; and the astrobiological relevance of microbial colonization of mineral interfaces.
Given the urgency of the threats posed by global environmental change and the crucial role that environmental microbiomes play in potential regulation and amelioration efforts, we strive to share our findings with a wide audience. To this end, we maintain active projects in science communication, international ocean conservation policy, and science education.
- Marlow J, Kumar A, Enalls B, Reynard L, Tuross N, Stephanopoulos G, and P. Girguis (2018), Harnessing a Methane-Fueled, Sediment-Free Mixed Microbial Community for Utilization of Distributed Sources of Natural Gas, Biotechnology & Bioengineering 115 (6): 1450-1464.
- Marlow, J., and R. Hatzenpichler, (2017), Assessing Metabolic Activity at Methane Seeps: A Testing Ground for Slow-Growing Environmental Systems. In: Kallmeyer, J. (Ed.), Life in Extreme Environments: Life at Vents and Seeps 223-260, Berlin: De Gruyter.
- Marlow, J., Steele, J., Ziebis, W., Scheller, S., Case, D., Reynard, L., and V. Orphan, (2017), Monodeuterated Methane: An Isotopic Tool to Assess Biological Methane Metabolism Rates, mSphere, DOI: 10.1128/mSphereDirect.00309-17.
- Marlow, J., Borrelli, C., Hoffman, C., Jungbluth, S., Marlow, J., and P. Girguis, (2017), Telepresence is a Potentially Transformative Tool for Field Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114 (19): 4841-4844.
- Marlow, J., Skennerton, C., Li, Z., Chourey, K., Hettich, R., Pan, C., and V. Orphan, (2016), Proteomic Stable Isotope Probing Reveals Dynamics of Slow Growing Methane Based Microbial Communities, Frontiers in Microbiology DOI:10.3389/fmicb.2016.00563.
- Marlow, J., Steele, J., Thurber, A., Ziebis, W., Levin, L., and V. Orphan, (2014), Carbonate Hosted Methanotrophy: An Unrecognized Methane Sink in the Deep Sea, Nature Communications 5: 5094.
- Sivan, O., Antler, G., Turchyn, A., Marlow, J., and V. Orphan, (2014), Iron Oxides Stimulate Sulfate Driven Anaerobic Methane Oxidation in Seeps, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (40): DOI:10.1073/pnas.1412269111.
- Marlow, J, LaRowe, D., Ehlmann, B., Amend, J., and V. Orphan, (2014), The Potential for Biologically Catalyzed Anaerobic Methane Oxidation on Ancient Mars, Astrobiology 14 (4): 292-307.
- Microbial Ecology