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Department of Biogeochemistry

Biogeochemie Abteilungsbild
LanceALot © Max Planck Institute for Marine Mikrobiology

Research in the Department of Biogeochemistry led by Prof. Dr. Marcel Kuypers focuses on microbiological and geochemical processes that control bioactive element cycling in the marine environment. The researchers employ geochemical, microbiological, modeling, molecular, and single-cell techniques to study the environmental regulation of these processes and their effects on the global biogeochemical cycles. They aim to gain fundamental insights into microbially mediated processes ultimately affecting ocean chemistry, biology and our climate and provide vital input for models predicting potential future changes resulting from human activities.

Research Groups:
Greenhouse Gases 
Microbial Physiology

Department of Molecular Ecology

Molekulare Ökologie Bild
Alge © Max Planck Institute for Marine Mikrobiology

Research in the Department of Molecular Ecology led by Prof. Dr. Rudolf Amann covers various ecosystems, including benthic habitats - from coastal permeable sediments to deep sea hydrothermal vents and seeps – as well as pelagic environments – from the shelf to the open ocean. A special focus of this group lies on the North Sea and the Wadden Sea.

Research Groups: 
Molecular Ecology Group  
Flow Cytometry Research Group  
Microbial Genomics

Department of Symbiosis

Abteilung Symbiose
Mussel gills © Max Planck Institute for Marine Mikrobiology

The Department of Symbiosis, headed by Prof. Dr. Nicole Dubilier, studies the biology and ecology of tight associations between bacteria and eukaryotes. The main emphasis lies on marine invertebrates from chemosynthetic environments such as sulfide-rich coastal sediments, vents and seeps.

Research Group:
Metabolic Interactions

Microsensor Group

Bild Mikrosensoren
Mikrosensors © Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

High-resolution studies of chemical microenvironments and metabolic processes by microsensors
-Development of 1 and 2D microsensing systems (electrochemical and fiber-optical microsensors and planar optodes.
The microsensor group headed by Dr. Dirk de Beer develops microsensors and applies these tools to answer scientific questions. The sensors are used in various research themes: studies of O, S and C cycling in microbial mats; the relation between complexity and stability of microbial ecosystems (mats); anoxygenic photosynthesis in modelsystems; calcification and respiration in deep-sea sediments; the N-cycle in freshwater sediments; the N and S cycle in biofilms.

Max Planck Research Group Microbial Metabolism

Methanothermococcus-thermolithotrophicus © Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology/T. Wagner

The Mi­cro­bi­al Me­ta­bo­lism Group, headed by Tristan Wagner, aims to un­der­stand, at the mole­cu­lar le­vel, how me­tha­no­gens are sur­vi­ving and gro­wing in ex­tre­me en­vi­ron­ments. How do they ge­ne­ra­te me­tha­ne from dif­fe­rent sour­ces of car­bon so ef­fi­ci­ent­ly? How do they con­vert mi­ne­rals into the ele­men­ta­ry bricks of life? And how do they pro­tect them­sel­ves against stres­ses from their na­tu­ral en­vi­ron­ment?

Max Planck Research Group Archaeal Virology

Electron microscopy image of a virus particle attached to a membrane vesicle. (Image: Susanne Erdmann)
Electron microscopy image of a virus particle attached to a membrane vesicle © Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology/S. Erdmann

The Archaeal Virology Group, headed by Susanne Erdmann, investigates membrane vesicle formation in Archaea and the formation of plasmid vesicles and studies the interactions between membrane vesicles and viruses.

Max Planck Research Group Eco-Evolutionary Interactions

Phacoides pectinatus
Phacoides pectinatus from Guadeloupe
© Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie/L. Wilkins

The Max Planck Research Group Eco-Evo­lu­tio­na­ry In­ter­ac­tions led by Dr. Laetitia Wilkins is stu­dy­ing how lu­ci­nid clams and their mi­cro­bi­al part­ners ad­ap­ted to di­ver­ging en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­ti­ons du­ring a mas­si­ve al­lo­pa­tric spe­cia­ti­on event cau­sed by the rise of the Isth­mus of Pa­namá. Our mo­ti­va­ti­on for do­ing re­se­arch is to move from cor­re­la­ti­on to cau­sa­ti­on in stu­dies of host-mi­cro­be evo­lu­ti­on. As oce­ans un­der­go ma­jor chan­ges due to hu­man ac­tivi­ties (for ex­amp­le oce­an war­ming and aci­di­fi­ca­ti­on), un­der­stan­ding how ani­mals and plants ad­apt to a chan­ging en­vi­ron­ment is now more than ever one of the big­gest ques­ti­ons in ma­ri­ne bio­lo­gy. To pre­dict fu­ture re­s­pon­ses, we can ex­plo­re the past and use geo­lo­gi­cal events, which pro­vi­de va­luable in­sights into ad­ap­ti­ve me­cha­nisms.

HGF MPG Joint Research Group for Deep-Sea Ecology and Technology

Deap-Sea Ecology and Technology © Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

The HGF MPG Joint Research Group for Deep-Sea Ecology and Technology, headed by Prof. Dr. Antje Boe­t­ius, fo­cuses on the phys­ical, chem­ical, geo­lo­gical, hy­dro­lo­gical, and bio­lo­gical char­ac­ter­ist­ics of the di­verse mi­cro­bial hab­it­ats. The goal of our re­search on “mi­cro­bial hab­it­ats” is to un­der­stand niche form­a­tion, and to in­vest­ig­ate reg­u­lat­ory mech­an­isms for the oc­cur­rence and dis­tri­bu­tion of mi­cro­bial pop­u­la­tions. This re­quires the de­vel­op­ment of a vari­ety of in situ tech­niques, as well as ex­per­i­mental strategies to quantify the nature and vari­ab­il­ity of the hab­itat on dif­fer­ent tem­poral and spa­tial scales.

This Joint Re­search Group combines the expertise of the Al­fred We­gener In­sti­tute, Helmholtz Center for Po­lar and Mar­ine Re­search (AWI) in Bremer­haven to con­duct re­search in po­lar en­vir­on­ments and to carry out long-term ob­ser­va­tions with MPIMM’s competence in the area of mar­ine mi­cro­bi­o­logy, the de­vel­op­ment of new mo­lecu­lar-bio­lo­gical meth­od­o­lo­gies, and in situ sensors.

MARUM MPG Bridge Group Marine Glycobiology

Bild Abteilung Glykobiologie
Coscinodiscus © Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

The MARUM MPG Bridge Group Marine Glycobiology, headed by Dr. Jan-Hendrik Hehemann, focuses on certain algal sugars, so called polysaccharides. These polysaccharides are very important in the marine carbon cycle. The massively influence how much carbon is stored in the ocean. Despite their relevance the structures of algal polysaccharides and their recycling by marine microbes remain a mystery. To shed light on this black box of the marine carbon cycle Hehemann and his group study the functional evolution of the bacterial enzymatic machines and how they process algal polysaccharides in the ocean.

HIFMB MPG Bridging Group for Marine Omics

Prof. Dr. A. Murat Eren
Prof. Dr. A. Murat Eren © Andrew Collings

The HIFMB MPG Bridging Group for Marine Omics, led by Prof. Dr. A. Murat Eren, is a cooperation with the Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity and focuses on several emerging approaches of biology all carrying the suffix “-omics”, such as genomics, metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, pangenomics, or phylogenomics. Collectively these strategies enable detailed descriptions of the ecology and evolution of organisms in controlled environments or in their natural habitats through molecular surveys. 

Emmy Noether Research Group for Organosulfur Cycling

Eileen Kröber
Dr. Eileen Kröber © Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

The Emmy Noether Research Group for Organosulfur Cycling, led by Dr. Eileen Kröber, focuses on organic sulfur compounds which are produced in our oceans and play an important role in climate regulation. These compounds are produced in large quantities in seagrass beds, mangroves and coral reefs – habitats where numerous worms and mussels obtain their nutrition with the help of symbiotic bacteria. 

ICBM-MPI Bridge Group Marine Geochemistry

Bild Marine Geochemie
© Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

The ICBM-MPI Bridge Group, headed by Prof. Dr. Thorsten Dittmar, is a cooperation between MPIMM and the Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM, University of Oldenburg). It aims at a better understanding of global element cycles using molecular tools. A special focus lies on dissolved organic matter (DOM). Structure-function-relationships for DOM and other organic matter pools are required to understand the earth’s past and future. Recent progress in analytical chemistry has allowed the characterisation of DOM at the molecular level in unprecedented detail, allowing for new insights into its source and history.

Max Planck Research Group Marine Isotope Geochemistry

Bild Marine Isotopengeochemie
© Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

The Max Planck Research Group Marine Isotope Geochemistry, headed by Dr. Katharina Pahnke-May, is focused on the understanding of past and present processes and changes in the ocean and the climate system. Particular interest of this collaboration between MPIMM and the Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM, University of Oldenburg) lies in trace elements and their isotopes in the ocean, as well as their role as tracers of present and past element input and fluxes, geochemical processes, internal cycling, and past ocean circulation changes. 

Department of Microbiology

Bild Mikrobio/MPIMM
Microbiology © Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

The Department of Microbiology, headed by Prof. Dr. Friedrich Widdel, investigates the physiology and diversity of aquatic bacteria from the cycles of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and iron. Investigations usually include the isolation of bacteria and their study under defined conditions in the laboratory. Characterisation of enrichment and pure cultures is often combined with the analysis of ribosomal nucleic acids, which is carried out in collaboration with the Department of Molecular Ecology. One major project is the study of the anaerobic degradation of long-lived natural products such as hydrocarbons, mostly by denitrifying and sulfate-reducing bacteria. Furthermore, the physiology of naturally abundant forms of sulfur-oxidizing and sulfate-reducing bacteria is of interest.

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