Craig Carlson

(805) 893-2541
3147 Marine Biotechnology Lab
Carlson Lab


Dr. Carlson earned his BA degree at Colby College and his PhD in marine science at the University of Maryland where he investigated the role that marine microbes play in governing the carbon cycle of open ocean ecosystems. As a Postdoctoral scholar at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science (BIOS) he focused on the biogeochemistry of dissolved organic matter in ocean systems. He joined BIOS faculty in 1996 and remained there until joining EEMB in 2001. Dr. Carlson currently serves as Vice Chair of EEMB and is a member of UCSB’s Marine Science Institute. He is lead PI or Co-PI on several federally sponsored projects in Microbial Oceanography.


Microbial Oceanography is an interdisciplinary blend of marine microbiology and ocean biogeochemistry. Specifically, our research has focused on the role marine microbes play in the cycling of elements through oceanic dissolved organic matter (DOM) and the biogeochemical significance of DOM in the marine C cycle. Despite significant progress the oceanographic community still lacks a mechanistic understanding of the microbial processes that shape DOM dynamics. My groups’ research goals are to continue to break apart the “black boxes” of substrates and organisms. We apply traditional as well as cutting edge molecular techniques to further characterize both DOM composition as well as the microbial community that grown and transform these substrates. The ultimate goal of this research is to establish linkages between microbial community composition and biogeochemical processes.

Selected Publications

  • Nelson C, Carlson C (2012). Tracking differential incorporation of dissolved organic carbon types among diverse Sargasso Sea bacteria using stable isotope probing Environ. Microbiol. 14:1500-1516 doi:10.1111/j.1462-2920.2012.02738.x.
  • Halewood ER, Carlson CA, Brzezinski MA, Reed DC, Goodman J (2012) The annual cycle of organic matter partitioning and its availability to bacteria across the Santa Barbara Channel continental shelf. Aquatic Microbial Ecology in press.
  • Parsons R, Breitbart M, Lomas M, Carlson C (2012). Ocean time-series reveals recurring seasonal patterns of virioplankton dynamics in the northwestern Sargasso Sea. ISME Journal 6:273-284. doi:10.1038/ismej.2011.101.
  • Carlson CA, Hansell DA, Tamburini C (2011). DOC persistence and its fate after export within the ocean interior. In: Jiao N, Azam F, Sanders S (eds). Microbial Carbon Pump in the Ocean. Science / AAAS Business Office: Washington DC. pp 57-59. 10.1126/science.opms.sb0001.
  • Goldberg, S.J., C.A. Carlson, M. Brzezinski, N.B. Nelson and D.A. Siegel, 2011: Systematic removal of neutral sugars within dissolved organic matter across ocean basins. Geophysical Research Letters, 38, L17606, doi:10.1029/2011GL048620.
  • Nelson C, Alldredge A, McCliment E, Amaral-Zetler L, Carlson C (2011). Depleted dissolved organic carbon and distinct bacterial communities in the water column of a rapid-flushing coral reef ecosystem. ISME Journal 5: 1374-1387. doi:10.1038/ismej.2011.12.
  • Carlson, C.A., D.A. Hansell, N.B. Nelson, D.A. Siegel, W.M. Smethie Jr., S. Khatiwala, M.M. Meyers, E. Wallner. 2010. Dissolved organic carbon export and subsequent remineralization in the mesopelagic bathypelagic realms of the North Atlantic basin. Deep Sea Research II 57:1433-1445.
  • Goldberg S.J., C.A. Carlson, B. Brock, N.B. Nelson, and D.A. Siegel. (2010) Meridional Variability in Dissolved Organic Matter Stocks and Diagenetic State Within the Euphotic and Mesopelagic Zone of the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. Marine Chemistry 119:9-21.
  • Carlson, C., Morris, R., Treusch, A.H, Parsons, R., Giovannoni, S.J., and Vergin, K. (2009) Seasonal Dynamics in SAR11 Populations in the Euphotic and Mesopelagic Zones of the Northwestern Sargasso Sea. ISME J: 3:283-295.
  • Hansell, D.A., Carlson C.A., Repeta D.J., Schlitzer R., (2009). Dissolved organic matter in the ocean: New insights stimulated by a controversy. Oceanography 22: 202-211.

External Publication List

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