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About the institute

The Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology (MPIMM) was founded in 1992 in the State of Bremen and is part of the campus of the University of Bremen. It belongs to the Biology & Medical Section of the Max Planck Society. The main focus of our research is on the diversity and functions of marine microorganisms and their interactions with the marine environment. Starting from the beginning on researchers at the MPIMM took part in international expeditions worldwide. They are internationally recognized for their expertise in marine microbiology and for the analysis of processes. These strong successful efforts are rewarded by many publications in top scientific journals.

Why marine Microbiology?

During two thirds of earth’s history, microorganisms dominated our planet and developed complex biota in the oceans and inland waters. In the course of nearly four billion years of evolutionary history, prokaryotic organisms, i.e. bacteria und archaea, have developed a great metabolic diversity.
To this day, microorganisms are primarily responsible for catalysing diverse decomposition processes of organic und inorganic substances. They play a key role in controlling global element cycles and thereby help to keep our planet inhabitable. They also ensure that almost all waste products are decomposed and recycled in the oceans, so that toxic compounds do not accumulate and endanger fauna or flora.

Although marine microbiology is not a new field of research, we still have very incomplete knowledge about marine microorganisms and their functional importance. Only about one percent of all species of microorganisms are known today, and new species with new capabilities continue to be discovered. Examples of such discoveries include the symbiosis between archaea and bacteria that decompose the greenhouse gas methane deep down in the ocean floor with the help of sulphate. This key process in the global carbon cycle has long been known, but the microorganisms involved were only recently identified. Another example is the anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox) with nitrite or nitrate - a newly discovered process that may constitute the most important nitrogen sink in the oceanic nitrogen cycle. The anammox microorganisms responsible for this process were first discovered in an industrial waste treatment plant in the early 1990s. The successful search for bacteria with similar metabolic potential in the ocean has basically changed our understanding of the marine nitrogen balance.

These ex­amples show how field re­search on mar­ine pro­cesses and labor­at­ory re­search on mi­croor­gan­isms com­bine to ad­vance our know­ledge of ele­ment cycles and the con­di­tions for life. At the Max Planck In­sti­tute for Mar­ine Mi­cro­bi­o­logy, mi­cro­bi­o­lo­gists, mo­lecu­lar bio­lo­gists and biogeo­chem­ists work to­gether to un­der­stand ba­sic prin­ciples of mar­ine mi­cro­bial eco­logy. Our fo­cus is on the an­aer­obic (oxy­gen-free) world be­low the sed­i­ment sur­face, be­cause this is where many in­ter­est­ing and hitherto un­known life forms ex­ist that play a cru­cial role for the coup­ling of ele­ment cycles – and hence for the chem­istry of the oceans. The re­search­ers at the in­sti­tute cover a broad range of dis­cip­lines and areas of ex­pert­ise, from mi­cro­sensors to mi­cro­bi­o­logy, from geo­chem­istry to gen­ome ana­lysis, and from mo­lecu­lar eco­logy to math­em­at­ical mod­el­ling.


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Martina Peters

MPI for Marine Microbiology
Celsiusstr. 1
D-28359 Bremen




+49 421 2028-5460

Martina Peters

Getting here

Map of the MPIMM location

Public transport: Tram 6 and buses 21, 22, 28 and 31

More information at

Disabled parking spot

There is a disabled parking lot in front of the main entrance to the building, from which you can enter the institute barrier-free.

Behindertenparkplatz und barrierefreier Weg ins Institut.
Our disabled parking lot and the barrier-free access to the institute.

Audit berufundfamilie

Our institute is certified according to the audit berufundfamilie. This audit encourages companies to practice a family oriented policy.
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