Welcome to WHOI's Microbial Biogeochemistry Group

Life, in the form of singled-celled microorganisms, may well have evolved in marine hot springs nearly 3.7 billion years ago. These early microbes probably used a few, simple chemical compounds to drive their metabolic processes, but eventually evolved into a highly diverse group of organisms that inhabit environments at the extremes of temperature, pressure, and chemical conditions found on earth today. Over time microbial processes have shaped the earth’s biosphere profoundly altering the environment, laying the foundation of the biogeochemical cycles that drive climate, and establishing the conditions that allowed for the evolution of plants and animals.

Scientists in the microbial biogeochemistry group at WHOI are studying microbes and microbial processes in environments as different as boiling hot deep sea hydrothermal vents and subzero arctic permafrost. Our research draws from biology, chemistry, and geology to explore how microbial processes are altering today’s world, and to look into the past to the very origin of life in the sea. Each liter of seawater or sediment contains billions of living cells. Until recently it was impossible to even catalogue the diversity of microbes in any marine habitat, but new tools in genomic sequencing, molecular biology, and analytical chemistry are allowing us to study microbes in the environment as never before, and to appreciate how microbes drive many of the most important processes on the planet.