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The Deep Biosphere
Marine sediments constitute one of the most energy-limited habitats on Earth. Marine sediments are also one of the largest microbial habitats in the world, serving as a major control on the burial of organic carbon and the evolution of Earth’s climate. This habitat is also an important analogue to oligotrophic and extra-terrestrial environments - if life exists or ever existed on another plant, evidence is most likely to be found in the subsurface.
Environmental change in the Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine regions
Polar regions have experienced rapid climate warming in recent decades. In response to this, melting has caused retreat of glaciers and ice sheets, and large expanses of land is exposed that has previously been locked underneath ice for tens of thousands of years. These "new" soils are rapidly colonised by microbes and plants. My research focusses on the dynamics of these pristine ecosystems immediately following exposure, their potential importance on global biogeochemical cycling, and the susceptibility to future climate change. My research also concerns future changes to the Greenland Ice Sheet.
Bioenergetics and microbial modelling
Download MicroLow_1.0.zip package ← click here
Low-energy and cold habitats provide ideal test-cases to study the extreme limits of fundamental biological principles such as microbial maintenance, growth yields, and dormancy. I explore the bioenergetic limitations of microbial life in marine sediments and other energy-limited and extreme habitats such as glaciers and ice sheets, via thermodynamic and bioenergetic modelling.
Download SHIMMER.zip package ← click here
GitHub ← click here
SHIMMER (Soil biogeopHysIcal Model of Microbial Ecosystem Response)
I am the lead developer of SHIMMER, a new numerical modelling framework designed to simulate the initial stages of soil formation and microbial community development in response to glacial retreat. The model is transferable and adaptable to other extreme environments and nutrient-limiting conditions. Not only does SHIMMER provide a more quantitative outlook on the fluxes, budgets, and process-interplay in ecosystems, but it highlights aspects of these systems and microbiology/biogeochemistry in general that require further empirical research, e.g. quantifying nutrient budgets and biogeochemical rates, exploring seasonality and microbial growth and cell death.
Ancient putative microbial structures that appear in the rock record commonly serve as evidence of early life on Earth, but the details of their formation remain unclear. The study of modern microbial mat structures can help inform the properties of their ancient counterparts, but modern mineralizing mat systems with morphological similarity to ancient structures are rare.
Douglas LaRowe, University of Southern California, USA.
Jan Amend, University of Southern California, USA.
Liane G. Benning, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences
Alexandre Anesio, University of Bristol, UK.
Sandra Arndt, University of Bristol, UK.
Joy Singarayer, University of Reading, UK.
American Geophysical Union
Deep Carbon Observatory
NASA Astrobiology Institute
Bristol Glaciology Centre
European Association of Geochemistry
European Polar and Alpine Microbiology Society (EPAMS)
International Glaciological Society
Astrobiology Society of Britain
International Geobiology Alumni
European Geosciences Union
The Mineralogical Society