The Columbia Earth Microbiology Center


Current Activities


Calculations of hydrogen sulfide and winds from NYC 8 Jan. 07 event

Calculations suggest salt marsh sediments can supply enough sulfur gases.

Winds form the south are unusual in NYC, as seen in this graph of yearly winds.

(These wind data come from the Hans Christian Anderson Complex in Harlem where Columbia maintains a weather station in collaboration with the Future Leaders Institute. These data are also on-line.)

Deep ocean sediment microbial diversity

Hudson River microbiology


Mission Statement

An interdisciplinary group of earth scientists, microbiologists and environmental engineers from across the University has begun coordinated research on EarthÕs microbial life.  This initiative leverages existing intellectual resources for an interdisciplinary analysis of the planetÕs smallest, but hardly least important, biological group.  Approaches derived from recent advances in molecular biology provide a common thread among these broad themes.  Molecular methods are rapidly clarifying the evolutionary pathways that have given rise to existing microbial forms.  The methods also reveal the staggering diversity of microbial communities.  These aspects complement each other in the analysis of the extent and diversity of microbial life, its role in maintaining EarthÕs living system, and its interactions with natural and human-induced variations.


Initial research projects focus on some far-reaching issues that have been difficult or impossible to address previously.  These include the microbial life in the deep sub-surface, the sequestration of carbon dioxide, and the microbes critical to the health of local waters such as the Hudson River.    Other research projects focus on the role of microbes in global nutrient cycles.  Microbes play critical roles both in providing nutrients for plant growth and in removing nutrients.  New research examines the biodiversity of such global systems and the role this diversity plays in maintaining the levels of important environmental components. 


The initiative currently consists of faculty, research staff, postdoctoral fellows and students and a dedicated molecular laboratory has been developed at the Lamont-Doherty campus.  A seminar series will bring speakers with expertise in several of the research areas addressed to campus over the next year.


Contact the Earth Microbiology Center