Microbial Ecology

Microbes are the most abundant organisms on and in our planet, some of which grow at incredible rates. Microbes such as Bacteria, Archaea, Protists represent “the invisible presence” and are found in most terrestrial and aquatic systems. As a result of their shear numbers and high rates of growth they can have significant impact on their chemical environment. Although individual microbes live and interact on spatial scales equal to one-billionth of a meter, their collective metabolisms control the great nutrient cycles of our planet such as the carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and iron cycles…. to name a few. EEMB’s microbial ecologists study the ecological, biogeochemical and evolutionary processes associated with microbes in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. They integrate cutting edge technologies in molecular biology, bioinformatics, biochemistry and biogeochemistry to investigate microbial interactions with one another and their chemical and physical environment. EEMB’s terrestrial microbial ecologists study microbial processes controlling nitrogen cycle in sites ranging from UCSB’s natural reserves in central California to the Artic tundra. Microbial oceanographers at UCSB study the metabolic activity of microbes thriving in the world’s open ocean and relate their community composition to the biogeochemical processes such as the oceanic carbon nitrogen and silica cycle.



Phytoplankton ecology and physiology; phytoplankton cell cycles; elemental cycling in surface ocean.


Dr. Carlson's research interests are shaped by an interdisciplinary blend of marine microbial ecology, microbiology and ocean biogeochemistry.


Marine biogeochemistry, ocean acidification, phytoplankton ecophysiology, marine calcification, inorganic carbon chemistry, genomics, shot-gun proteomics, genetic diversity.


The Moeller Lab uses mathematics, experiments, and field observations to understand how metabolic interactions between species shape the structure and function of ecological communities.

Research in the Oono Lab is focused on understanding how symbiotic associations evolve, particularly between plant hosts or communities and bacterial or fungal microbes.

Marine microbiology, microbial ecology, nitrogen cycling


Soil ecology; microbial controls of ecosystem processes; terrestrial biogeochemistry.

LIzzy Wilbanks

I am interested how microbial interactions and tightly-coupled biogeochemical cycles drive the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of populations, with a current focus on the bacteria and archaea of marine aggregates and biofilms.