2012-2013 Schlanger Fellow – Joseph Russell

Joseph Russell

University of Delaware

Genomic Analyses of Microbial Cultivations in Unexplored Sub-seafloor Ridge Flank and Continental Margin Environments





Investigations are proposed to explore and compare the microbial inhabitants of the sediment and igneous basalt crust underneath “North Pond”, a sediment deposit ringed by basalt outcrops on the young ridge flank associated with the Mid-Atlantic Ridge system (IODP Expedition 336) and the sediments of the continental margin associated with the Mediterranean Outflow (IODP Expedition 339). This will be done using a cultivation approach focused on Fe, S, and CH4 metabolisms. In addition to cultivation, multiple molecular tools will be used to examine the total microbial population in each system. This study aims to assess the cultivability and physiological tolerances of in situ subsurface microbial populations as well as compare new data from North Pond and Mediterranean Outflow with existing data from similar environments to understand the extent of microbial adaptation to distinct geographical niches.




I grew up on the seacoast of New Hampshire, the ocean being a favorite playground from an early age. Despite this, I attended the University of Arizona and began college as an astronomy major. An introduction to astrobiology led to a fascination with the intricacy and diversity of microbial life. I switched majors to microbiology and completed my Bachelor’s degree in 2008. After graduation, I worked in the bio-tech industry in Boston for two years. A fortunate 6-week stint on an oceanographic research vessel in the Pacific resulted in relocating to the University of Delaware where I am currently pursuing a PhD in marine microbiology under Dr. Jennifer Biddle. My research focuses on the microbial ecology and metagenomics of deep sub-seafloor sediments and oceanic crust. I also hope to use molecular tools to improve cultivation strategies; something I am actively pursuing from these environments. When not in lab, I enjoy surfing, Wikipedia, movies, and attempting to play the harmonica.