Dr. Kenneth Wasmund
Overall, my research aims to gain a better understanding of microbial life in the subsurface sediments underlying our oceans, where immense numbers of microbial cells of very diverse composition thrive. In doing so, a primary research theme involves the study of anaerobic microorganisms involved in the transformations of sulfur compounds. Since the marine subsurface is extremely large, mostly devoid of oxygen, and replete with sulfur compounds, microorganisms catalysing reactions involving sulfur compounds play critical roles in global sulfur and carbon cycles. We therefore especially aim to reveal the identities, functions, and ecological interactions of microbes that respire various sulfur compounds including sulfate and other ‘sulfur-cycle intermediates’, e.g., thiosulfate, sulfite, elemental sulfur and tetrathionate.
We are additionally interested in understanding the identities and roles of different groups of anaerobic microbes involved in the degradation of various classes of organic molecules in marine sediments. A special focus is also placed on organic molecules containing sulfur, which are especially prelevant in marine environments. Together, this research aims to help better understand controls of biogeochemical cycles, and how the diversity and types of organic molecules and electron acceptors control and support the extensive microbial diversity found in the marine subsurface biosphere.
To study these research topics, we combine information from both in situ analyses (e.g., field studies in Arctic marine systems) and experimental incubations (e.g., microcosms in the lab), which are explored by various molecular approaches including high-throughput community- and functional-gene sequencing, community- and single cell-based stable-isotope probing, meta- and single cell-genomics, transcriptomics, and in situ hybridisation techniques. These approaches allow us to study the functions and interactions of microbes without isolation/cultivation in the lab and therefore within the contexts of complex microbial communities that exist in nature.
Additionally, I also have general interest in research related to my previous projects which include the genomics and functions of uncharacterised marine subsurface microbes and especially those of the Chloroflexi, as well as bioremediation and hydrocarbon degradation in marine environments, and general marine and microbial biology and biogeochemistry.