Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

The Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology researches marine bacteria that transform carbon, nitrogen, sulphur and iron compounds, thus playing crucial roles in the global material cycle. These bacteria display widely varying adaptations, e.g. to food gradients in sediments, to low and high temperatures and to high pressure in the deep sea. The scientists at the Institute research material gradients and balances and the influence of currents and sediment-inhabiting animals in the coastal regions of Europe, South America, Africa and the Artic, as well as in hydrothermal sources and in the deep sea. Particular attention is focused on bacteria which, for example, regulate the global nitrogen cycle in the low oxygen milieu. Other bacteria specialise in the decomposition of carbohydrates in plants and oil. Molecular biological technologies are used in the research with a view to attaining a better understanding of the variety, structure and function of microbial marine communities. The complex regulation and evolution of environmentally-relevant microorganisms are analysed in detail through the sequencing of entire bacterial genomes and large fragments of environmental DNA.

Contact

Celsiusstr. 1
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 2028-50
Fax: +49 421 2028-580

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):
IMPRS for Marine Microbiology

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

<p>Ancient partnership between ciliates and bacteria</p>
Symbiotic ciliates and bacteria have a common ancestor more
Oil as energy source for deep-sea creatures
Scientists discover mussels and sponges in the deep sea which can thrive on oil with the help of symbiont bacteria more
The curse of durability

The curse of durability

News May 02, 2017
Can microorganisms help combat the vast amounts of plastic being disposed of in the sea? more
Periodic hypoxia in the deep sea with long-term consequences
Low bottom-water oxygen leads to more organic matter ending up on the seafloor more
Sunken logs serve as habitats in the deep sea
Organisms from the nutrient-deficient deep sea depend on wood as source of energy more
A new dead zone in the Indian Ocean

A new dead zone in the Indian Ocean

News December 07, 2016
A new dead zone in the Indian Ocean could impact future marine nutrient balance more
Iron-munching microbe discovered
Newly discovered archaebacteria converts methane into carbon dioxide with the help of iron more
Some bacteria love their foes
Bacteria probably formed symbioses with protists early in evolution more
Bacteria are individualists

Bacteria are individualists

News May 09, 2016
Cells respond differently to lack of nutrients more
Symbiosis with partner exchange

Symbiosis with partner exchange

News March 11, 2016
In worm-bacteria symbioses some microbes remain faithful to their hosts, others to their location more
Nano power grids between bacteria

Nano power grids between bacteria

News October 21, 2015
Microorganisms in the sea organise their power supply via tiny power-cables, thus oxidising the greenhouse gas methane more
Deep-sea mussels with highly toxic tenants
Symbiosis bacteria produce a variety of toxins, which appear to save the mussels from being eaten more
<p>Testing the waters</p>

Testing the waters

News June 20, 2014
The first ever international Ocean Sampling Day will be held on June 21, when scientists plan to carry out a “health check” of our oceans by investigating its microbial communities. more
A day in the life of the oceans

A day in the life of the oceans

News June 20, 2014
The sea is teeming with microorganisms. But the communities they form are highly diverse, and still underexplored. more
How climate change affects microbial life below the seafloor
Sediments from the deep sea give insight into the dynamics of the deep biosphere more
Ten ERC Advanced Grants for Max Planck scientists
Fifty applications for funding successful in Seventh EU Framework Programme more
Massive amounts of charcoal enter the worlds' oceans
Wild fire residue is washed out of the soil and transported to the sea by rivers more
4,000 metres under the ice

4,000 metres under the ice

News April 08, 2013
The Arctic is one of the habitats undergoing the most radical transformation as a result of climate change. Nobody can predict the effects it will have on biodiversity in the Arctic Ocean. more
Marine passion

Marine passion

News March 05, 2013
Nicole Dubilier from the Max Planck Institute of marine Microbiology in Bremen investigates the symbiosis between bacteria and invertebrates in the deep sea. more
How the ocean loses nitrogen

How the ocean loses nitrogen

News February 24, 2013
Scientists identify key factor controlling nitrogen availability in the ocean more
Rapid changes in the Arctic ecosystem

Rapid changes in the Arctic ecosystem

News February 18, 2013
Rapid changes in the Arctic ecosystem from surface to depth during the ice minimum in the summer of 2012 more
Wood on the seafloor - an oasis for deep-sea life
Sunken woods promote the dispersal of rare deep-sea animals, forming hotspots of biodiversity at the deep seafloor more
Nicole Dubilier receives award from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Max Planck researcher recognized for her marine research more
Scientists unravel the mystery of marine methane oxidation
Researchers uncover how microorganisms on the ocean floor protect the atmosphere against methane more
Strange diet for methane consuming microorganisms
Methane supplies the energy for cell metabolism, but is not the carbon source more
Marine research in the Brazilian rain forest
Slash and burn practice for centuries as source of stable carbon compounds in the oceans more
Bacterial community inside the plant root
Plants choose the soil bacteria that they allow into their roots more
Rapid coral death by a deadly chain reaction
Soil erosion in tropical coastal areas accelerates coral death more
Nutrient supply after algal bloom determines the succession of the bacterial population
Max Planck researchers unravel Plankton paradox more
A toxic menu<br />

A toxic menu

News April 16, 2012
Marine worm feeds on carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide with the help of symbiotic bacteria more
Chemical microgradients accelerate coral death on the Great Barrier Reef
Anoxia and toxic sulfide are a menace to coral tissue more
Bacteria forge nitrogen from nitric oxide
Max Planck scientists unravel key pathway in the nitrogen cycle more
Hydrogen highway in the deep sea

Hydrogen highway in the deep sea

News August 11, 2011
Max Planck Researchers discover hydrogen-powered symbiotic bacteria in deep-sea hydrothermal vent mussels more
Ocean acidification and coral reefs
Natural CO2 seeps show what could happen to coral reefs in a world of increasing greenhouse gas emissions more
Oil degradation without oxygen

Oil degradation without oxygen

News December 15, 2010
Some bacteria do not require oxygen to degrade crude oil. They can survive even deep within the ocean's sedimentary layers more
New deep-sea hot springs discovered in the Atlantic
Hydrothermal vents may contribute more to the thermal budget of the oceans than previously assumed more
Bacteria produce oxygen even without light
The molecular secrets of a bacterium which produces its own oxygen to use the green house gas methane was unravelled more
Arctic bacteria - some like it hot

Arctic bacteria - some like it hot

News September 17, 2009
Surprisingly high numbers of heat-loving bacteria found in the cold Arctic Ocean more
Bacteria detoxify deadly seawater

Bacteria detoxify deadly seawater

News December 11, 2008
Microorganisms turn poisonous sulphide into harmless sulphur - thus protecting sea life more
Professional fasters deep under the sea floor
An international team of researchers finds that natural radioactivity could provide microbes in the Deep Biosphere with vitality more
Methane Devourer Discovered in the Artic
Novel methane consuming microorganisms discovered at the Haakon Mosby Mud Volcano in the Arctic deep sea more
Life without a mouth, stomach, or gut

Life without a mouth, stomach, or gut

News September 18, 2006
How a small worm gets by with a little help from its bacteria more
Bacteria Which Sense the Earth's Magnetic Field
Max Planck researchers uncover how a nanoscale "compass" inside bacteria orients them to the Earth's magnetic field more

The ocean is her passion, the seabed her lab bench. Antje Boetius from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen always has multiple objectives in her sights: from discovery and precautionary research to technological development and scientific communication. It’s an act that involves a lot of juggling – sometimes in rubber boots, sometimes in high heels.

The Sea as a Gene Pool

MPR 3/2012 Biology & Medicine
The oceans are full of bacteria. Outwardly, they all look much the same, but there are many different species living a variety of ways of life. This has led Hanno Teeling, Bernhard Fuchs and Frank Oliver Glöckner from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen to analyze bacterial diversity in the oceans with the aid of metagenomics. To do this, they first throw the whole bacterial genome into one pot, then decode the DNA molecules and sort the genetic mix back into individual bacterial groups.
The depths of the ocean are a hostile environment. In a bid to defy these adverse conditions, many organisms have teamed up to form close relationships called symbioses. Nicole Dubilier and her colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen keep discovering new symbioses that provide these deep-sea inhabitants with a guaranteed energy supply.
Life is more abundant here than anywhere else on the planet: tropical coral reefs are the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. But they are under threat – from acidification of the water.
Huge quantities of dissolved organic carbon are drifting around in the world’s oceans, a ready-made meal for microorganisms. Yet strange as it may seem, they virtually ignore them. Thorsten Dittmar of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen wants to close this and other knowledge gaps in marine research.
Some species of bacteria even feed on oil. Microbiologists are studying these tiny creatures that thrive in unusual habitats.
Personal Portrait: Nicole Dubilier
Rethinking biodiversity research.

Researchers in Deep Water

MPR 1 /2009 Environment & Climate
At depths of several kilometers, unique ecosystems can be found in the so-called “cold seeps” on the ocean fl oor, the role of which is currently being researched in the context of global material cycles.

Digestive enzymes in the oceans and the human gut

2017 Hehemann, Jan-Hendrik; Schlösser, Manfred
Ecology Microbiology
The Research Group for Marine Glycobiology studies the microbial degradation of organic matter by bacteria. The substrates originate from marine algae. These algae convert huge amounts of carbon dioxide by photosynthesis into sugars, thereby forming the nutritional basis for heterotrophic organisms. On a global scale marine micro algae form the same amount of reduced carbon compounds like the whole biomass of terrestrial plants. And as a side effect they also produce half of the atmospheric oxygen. more

Microbiomes of deep-sea extreme environments

2016 Boetius, Antje
Chemistry Ecology Microbiology
The deep sea harbors an astronomical number of microorganisms and an unknown genetic variety. Unraveling the genetic functions of ocean microbiomes is essential for understanding the Earth system and its element cycles. Especially the extreme ecosystems of the deep sea hold clues to the evolution and limits of life, and its adaptability to a dynamic planet. more

Chance or determinism: molecular ecological studies of degradation processes of algal biomass by marine bacteria

2015 Amann, Rudolf; Fuchs, Bernhard M..; Teeling, Hanno
Chemistry Ecology Microbiology

Every spring algal blooms color the temperate and polar seas greenish-brown. When the algae die millions of tons of proteins and sugars are released which are by large mineralized by bacteria. This raises two questions: what characterizes these bacteria and does their occurrence follow predictable patterns?

more

Processes and biodiversity in phototrophic mats, corals and sediments

2014 de Beer, Dirk; Polerecky, Lubos; Glas, Martin; Chennu, Arjun
Chemistry Ecology Microbiology

In order to study benthic phototrophs we developed a combination of high resolution chemical and community analyses that is widely applicable. The community structure is derived from spectra simultaneously recorded by a hyperspectral camera. A last step was to make the hyperspectral imager autonomous and useful for in situ approaches, even for deep sea deployment. Using these methods we will further intensify our research and investigate ecological hot spots for their productivity, such as coral reefs and sediments under sea-ice.

more

Isotopes of dissolved trace elements as tracers of biogeochemical and physical processes in the ocean

2013 Pahnke, Katharina; Basak, Chandranath
Chemistry Ecology Microbiology
Microbiological and biogeochemical processes in the ocean are of essential significance for marine ecosystems and play an important role in the Earth’s climate. A detailed understanding of all contributing components, including the supply and transport of trace elements, is therefore of highest interest for marine and climate sciences. Using isotope ratios of trace elements in the ocean, the Max Planck Research Group for Marine Isotope Geochemistry strives to contribute to an improved understanding of the role of geochemical cycles for marine ecosystems and global climate change. more

Giant bacteria in the ocean

2012 Schulz-Vogt, Heide N.
Microbiology
Fourteen years ago, the world’s largest bacterium, Thiomargarita namibiensis, was discovered off the coast of Namibia. Since then we learned that the “Namibian sulfur pearl” has many close relatives in other parts of the sea and that it also plays an important ecological role: These bacteria can induce the formation of phosphorus-rich rocks. This process decreases the total amount of phosphate in seawater with the result that this nutrient becomes unavailable for other organisms. Thereby, the formation of these rocks counteracts the eutrophication of the ocean with respect to phosphate. more

Global geochemical cycling – a matter of microbial economy

2011 Strous, Marc; Schloesser, Manfred
Earth Sciences Ecology Microbiology
The actions of microbes drive the biogeochemical element cycles, a complicated metabolic network that is the basis of all life. About 100 years ago, microbiology's founding fathers have drafted an architecture for this network which has been refined ever since. However, even today we cannot predict the system as a whole and are clueless as to how this system will respond to increasing anthropogenic inputs such as fertilization and fossil fuel burning. Our aim is to unravel the laws of microbial competition and collaboration that connect the individual nodes of the planetary metabolic network. more

Dissolved organic matter in the oceans - a large mystery in marine research

2010 Dittmar, Thorsten; Schloesser, Manfred
Chemistry Ecology Microbiology
The Max Planck Research Group for Marine Geochemistry studies dissolved organic matter in the ocean, an important component of global element cycles. Marine dissolved organic matter accumulates since thousands of years to the largest organic carbon pool in the oceans and is mainly of microbial origin. The controlling mechanisms behind its turnover, however, are unknown. The Max Planck Research Group applies ultra high resolution mass spectrometry to obtain answers to the fundamental questions regarding the cycling of marine organic matter. more

An ocean of symbioses, of unforeseen depth

2009 Aspetsberger, Fanni; Dubilier, Nicole
The Symbiosis Group studies associations between bacteria and marine invertebrates from chemosynthetic environments such as sulfide-rich coastal sediments, deep-sea hydrothermal vents, and cold seeps. Our research focuses on three main goals: revealing the biodiversity and biogeography of microbial symbioses, understanding the metabolic pathways the symbionts use to gain energy from the environment and feed their host, and deciphering the evolution of the symbioses and the adaptations that have led to the ecological success of these associations. more

Mathematical modeling of dynamic processes in marine systems

2008 Khalili, Arzhang
Chemistry Microbiology
Many transport processes in the oceans and seas - in the water column and the seabeds - are of physicochemical nature. Small scale hydrodynamic and gasdynamic processes causing global effects play a major role in improving our understanding of marine systems, and hence, of our planet. Research concentrates on numerical simulation of diffusion, advection and chemical reaction processes as well as particle and gas transport in marine systems. more

The Nitrogen Cycle in the Ocean

2007 Kuypers, Marcel M. M.
Chemistry Ecology Microbiology
The Nutrient Group was established in May 2005 as an independent junior research group funded by the Max Planck Society. Research focuses on processes that control nutrient nitrogen availability in past and present marine environments. Specifically, environmental regulation of these processes and their effects on global biogeochemical cycles are investigated. As these cycling processes are typcially mediated by microorganisms, combinations of newly developed geochemical, microbiological and molecular-ecological techniques are applied in these studies. One of the current projects of the Nutrient Group is an elucidation on the role of the recently described anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox) within the oceanic nitrogen cycle. more

Ecological genomics as a key for understanding microbial diversity and function

2006 Glöckner, Frank Oliver
Ecology Genetics Microbiology
The advent of high throughput sequencing technologies in the last years is set out to unravel the diversity and function of marine microorganisms on a whole genome level. It is the objective of the microbial genomics group to take advantage of this development and learn more about the mechanisms coded in the genome enabling the organisms to adapt to changing environmental conditions. To reach the goal it is necessary to not only generate sequences but to force functional genomic analysis. To reveal ecological relevant gene functions the genomic potential has to be correlated with on site microbial diversity and physical-chemical measurements on a geospatial level. This in turn should uncover specific niche adaptations and give hints how the organisms influence the global cycling of matters. The knowledge obtained will lead to a better understanding of the complexity, interaction and stability of marine habitats. The long term perspective is to predict the impact of local anthropogenic influences as well as global changes, like the green house effect, on the marine ecosystem. more

Microbial communities of marine habitats: ecology and biogeochemical processes

2005 Janßen, Felix; Treude, Tina; Boetius, Antje
Research interests of the Microbial Habitat Group include exchange processes between marine sediments and the overlying water, the in situ quantification of transport and reaction in sediments as well as experimental studies on the influence of currents, waves, and pressure gradients on the biological and biogeochemical sedimentary processes. A special focus lies on microbial and geochemical processes in permeable sediments and other types of ocean margin systems, especially reduced and chemosynthetic habitats. more

Exploring the diversity of marine microbial processes and environments

2004 Jørgensen, Bo Barker
Ecology Microbiology
The sea floor is a site of high biological activity where the organic material produced in the water column by planktonic algae is deposited and degraded. Oxygen is present only in the upper few millimeters or centimeters of the sea floor. In the zone below which is free of oxygen (anaerobic zone) other oxidants like nitrate, sulfate and insoluble oxides of iron or manganese function as electon acceptors for alternative respiratory processes of diverse anaerobic microorganisms. If their metabolic products like ammonia, hydrogen sulfide or more soluble metal ions diffuse into the oxic zone, they serve as an energy source for chemolithotrophic microorganisms. All these reactions in the sea floor thus form a cascade of redox processes which is initiated by deposited organic material and which is essentialy linked to the global turnover of oxygen, nitrogen, iron, manganese, sulfur and other elements. The diversity and physiological potential of many microorganisms that catalyze these redox reactions are still unknown. The major task of the Department of Biogeochemistry is to elucidate the processes, the involved microorganisms, the control of their activity and their and interactions with the abiotic habitat. more
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