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Jeffrey Marlow

Exploring the functional diversity, metabolic activity,

and limits of microbial life, on Earth and beyond...


Jeffrey Marlow

Exploring the functional diversity, metabolic activity,

and limits of microbial life, on Earth and beyond...


Microbes are - by definition - diminutive organisms, yet microbial communities play integral roles in many of Earth's fundamental processes, from climate regulation to elemental cycles that establish habitability for the rest of us on a global scale. As a researcher working at the intersection of marine environmental microbiology and geobiology, I seek to connect these scales, studying the dynamics of microbial metabolism to help develop fundamental principles of how microbial communities and environments interact. I am applying such knowledge to contemporary natural ecosystems, ancient regimes throughout geologic time, and engineered alternative energy platforms. By investigating these limits experimentally, we also gain unique insight into the search for life beyond Earth, one of the most fundamental scientific questions of our time.

My primary interest is in probing the limits of microbial life - through physical, biochemical, and energetic lenses - using metabolic activity-based methods. The last several years have seen vastly expanded habitats based on cell detection and gene surveys, but activity levels - the ultimate arbiter of a microbial community's impact - and lineage-specific functional roles are still largely unconstrained. And while many experimental approaches necessarily remove inter-organism spatial relationships from the analytical pipeline, such data are critical for understanding how intricate microbiological communities interact and effect environmental change. To bridge this gap, I am developing fluorescence in situ hybridization-based imaging techniques and non-canonical amino acid incorporation approaches to link identity, function, and location in complex communities. With these new tools, we are poised to change our understanding of how biology is structured, building from energetic context to inter-organism interactions, cell-specific activity profiles, and emergent functions.

Please see the [Research] page to learn more about the the experimental systems in which I have applied this research approach.

Elsewhere on this site, you'll find the [publications] I've contributed to, [scientific expeditions] I've participated in, as well as my work in [science writing] and [outreach]. Have a look around, and get in touch with any comments or questions!

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Recent and Upcoming Events

Recent and Upcoming Events

See you there?

March 17, 2019: The Explorers Club Annual Dinner, Invited Presenter // New York City, NY

March 25-April 5, 2019: United Nations Intergovernmental Conference on marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, part 2 // New York CIty, NY

April 3, 2019: SciCafe Presenter, American Museum of Natural History // New York City, NY

June 24-29, 2019: Astrobiology Science Conference, “Lessons from Earth Analogs to Inform the Search for Life in the Universe” session convener // Seattle, WA

...And Good Times were Had by All

February 28, 2019: Museum of Science, High School Science Series Keynote Speaker // Boston, MA

February 13, 2019: Biology Department Seminar, Boston University // Boston, MA

January 19, 2019: Ad Astra Academy Youth Science Initiative // Cambridge, MA

November 13, 2018: National Geographic Explorer Classroom // Online

November 8-10, 2018: National Ocean Exploration Forum “All Hands on Deck” // Cambridge, MA

October 5-21, 2018: Seeps and Vents of Southern California Expedition // Schmidt Ocean Institute, California Coast

September 4-17, 2018: United Nations Intergovernmental Conference on marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, part 1 // New York CIty, NY

September 2, 2018: The Rut 50K Mountain Trail Run // Big Sky, MT

August 16, 2018: TEDx @TripAdvisor // Invited Speaker

August 13, 2018: Goldschmidt Conference, Oral Presentation // Boston, MA

July, 2018: Lava Lakes of Ambrym Island Expedition // Vanuatu

June 13-16, 2018: National Geographic Explorers Festival // Washington, D.C.

May 21-23, 2018: Ocean Worlds Meeting // Houston, TX

May 6-10, 2018: Ad Astra Academy / Osel Foundation Mars Academy Part 2 // Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

April 18-19, 2018: Deep Sea Mining Impacts on Microbial Ecosystem Services Workshop // Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, ME

April 15-18, 2018: New Opportunities to Study Origins of the Eukaryotic Cell // Janelia Research Campus, VA

April 6, 2018: National Geographic Day, Keynote Speaker // Denver, CO

April 5, 2018: Science Diplomacy for Deep Ocean Stewardship // Online, Southampton, UK

April 2, 2018: MicroSeminar, the Web-Based Microbiology Seminar Series, Presenter // Online

March 1, 2018: Departments of Biology & Oceanography Joint Seminar, Dalhousie University // Halifax, Canada

February 26-27, 2018: Here be Dragons, MIT Media Lab Open Ocean Initiative, Invited Speaker // Cambridge, MA

February 11-16, 2018: Ocean Sciences Meeting, "Methane from the Subsurface through the Bio-, Hydro-, and Atmosphere" Session Co-Convener // Portland, OR

January 26, 2018: SUNY-Buffalo Biological Sciences Symposium, Keynote Speaker // Buffalo, NY

January 12, 2018: Moore Foundation Marine Microbiology Initiative, Project Kick-Off Meeting // Bozeman, MT

January 11, 2018: Center for Biofilm Engineering Seminar at Montana State University // Bozeman, MT

December 18-22, 2017: Ad Astra Academy / Osel Foundation Mars Academy Part 1 // Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

November 14, 2017: National Geographic Explorer Classroom, [Space Week] // Online

November 9, 2017: Falling Walls Conference // Berlin, Germany

November 3, 2017: [MIT Chemical Oceanography, Geology, Geochemistry, and Geobiology Seminar] // Cambridge, MA

September 24, 2017: Rutgers University Department of Biochemistry & Microbiology Department Seminar // New Brunswick, NJ

August 14-16, 2017: Ad Astra Academy Short Course // Oakland, CA

June 15-18, 2017: National Geographic's Explorers Festival // Washington, D.C.

June 5-9, 2017: [United Nations' Ocean Conference] // New York City, NY

June 2-4, 2017: 70 Years of the Marshall Plan // Harvard University

March 2-4, 2017: Ad Astra Academy retreat and workshop // Winter Park, CO

February 15-16, 2017: ARPA-E REMOTE team annual meeting // Houston, TX

February 8-10, 2017: 3rd Mars 2020 Landing Site Workshop // Pasadena, CA

February 6-7, 2017: Critical Measurements in Martian Geobiology with Mars-2020, Workshop Co-organizer // Pasadena, CA

November 21, 2016: National Geographic Explorer Classroom, Guest Presenter // Online

November 9-12, 2016: National Academies Keck Futures Initiative Conference: Discovering the Deep Blue Sea // Irvine, CA

November 3, 2016: NASA Education / National Geographic's Mars Student Meet-up, Invited Speaker // Washington, DC

October 31, 2016: Georgia Tech School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department Seminar // Atlanta, GA

September 21-24, 2016: Volcanoes of Virunga, Lake Kivu Expedition // Democratic Republic of the Congo

September 16-20, 2016: Virus Hunters Bat Cave Reporting Trip // Democratic Republic of the Congo

August 21-24, 2016: International Symposium on Microbial Ecology // Montreal, Canada

August 25-26, 2016: 2nd Annual Ocean Worlds Meeting // Woods Hole, MA

July 26 - August 8: R/V Atlantis Deep Submergence Science Leadership Cruise // Woods Hole, MA

June 23 - July 3, 2016: E/V Nautilus Central California Expedition, Participating Scientist // San Francisco >> Santa Barbara

June 16-20, 2016: American Society for Microbiology Annual Meeting // Boston, MA

June 13-17, 2016: National Geographic's Explorers Week // Washington, D.C.