UW News

marine microbiology


May 28, 2020

The most common organism in the oceans harbors a virus in its DNA

grey oval with orange circles attached

A new study in Nature Microbiology shows that the most common organism in the world’s oceans — and possibly the whole planet — harbors a virus in its DNA. This virus may have helped it survive and outcompete other organisms. The study began as a UW School of Oceanography senior thesis.


September 4, 2019

New study tracks sulfur-based metabolism in the open ocean

researchers on ship

UW oceanographers used lab experiments and seawater samples to learn how photosynthetic microbes and ocean bacteria use sulfur, a plentiful marine nutrient.


May 1, 2019

Arsenic-breathing life discovered in the tropical Pacific Ocean

people working on deck of boat

In oxygen-poor parts of the ocean, some microorganisms survive by breathing arsenic. This holdover from the ancient Earth was not thought to still exist in the open ocean.


November 27, 2018

Threatened tropical coral reefs form complex, ancient associations with bacteria, researchers say

Fish swimming in a coral reef.

In a comprehensive study of healthy corals published Nov. 22 in the journal Nature Communications, a team of scientists from the University of Washington Bothell, Pennsylvania State University and Oregon State University report that coral bacteria are a surprisingly diverse bunch — and that different sections of the coral body can host unique communities of bacteria.


August 25, 2017

As Tolstoy noted (sort of), all unhappy microbiomes are unhappy in their own way

The bacterial communities that live inside each of our guts are relatively similar when times are good, but when stress enters the equation, those communities can react very differently from person to person.


January 18, 2017

Vitamin B-12, and a knockoff version, create complex market for marine vitamins

instrument over ocean

Vitamin B-12 exists in two different, incompatible forms in the oceans. An organism thought to supply the essential vitamin B-12 in the marine environment is actually churning out a knockoff version.


July 19, 2016

UW oceanographers grow, sequence genome of ocean microbe important to climate change

Marine microbes were collected from a low-oxygen fjord in Barkley Sound, off the coast of British Columbia.

A University of Washington team has shed new light on a common but poorly understood bacteria known to live in low-oxygen areas in the ocean. By culturing and sequencing the microbe’s entire genome, the oceanographers found that it significantly contributes to the removal of life-supporting nitrogen from the water in new and surprising ways.


November 19, 2015

Sequencing algae’s genome may aid biofuel production

Chrysochromulina tobin

University of Washington scientists have sequenced the complete genetic makeup of a species of ecologically important algae, which may aid in biofuel production.


June 15, 2015

Genetic switch lets marine diatoms do less work at higher CO2

green cylinder on black background

Oceanographers found the genetic ‘needles in a haystack’ to gain the first hints at how diatoms — tiny drifting algae that carry out a large part of Earth’s photosynthesis — detect and respond to increasing carbon dioxide from burning of fossil fuels.


May 27, 2015

Invisible helpers of the sea: Marine bacteria boost growth of tiny ocean algae

mosaic made out of different shaped diatoms

Using seawater collected in Seattle, Whidbey Island and other sites, UW oceanographers show that just as with plants on land, a common species of ocean diatom grows faster in the presence of helpful bacteria.


February 24, 2014

Vitamin water: Measuring essential nutrients in the ocean

researchers on boat

Oceanographers have found that archaea, a type of marine microbe, can produce B-12 vitamins in the ocean.


December 17, 2012

Plumes across the Pacific deliver thousands of microbial species to West Coast

Mount Bachelor observatory.

Microorganisms – 99 percent more kinds than had been reported in findings published just four months ago – are hitching rides in the upper troposphere from Asia.