Colin Murrell – Professor in Environmental Microbiology, University of East Anglia
The central theme of my research is the microbiology of atmospheric trace gases and in particular methanotrophic and methylotrophic bacteria and bacteria that grow on isoprene. Other areas of research include the microbiology of the rhizosphere, sea-surface microlayer, caves, alkaline soda lakes, saltmarshes, cold water corals and cultural heritage microbiology, regulation of gene expression by metals, microbial genomics, metagenomics, bioremediation, biocatalysis and industrial biotechnology. In my role as Director of the Earth and Life Systems Alliance, I also interact with soil and plant scientists, oceanographers, limnologists, speleologists, marine chemists, modellers and industry.
Dr Terry McGenity – Reader in Environmental Microbiology, University of Essex
I am an environmental microbiologist investigating a variety of topics, including hydrocarbon cycling. I became interested in isoprene, when I learnt that microbes degrading it could also co-metabolise the pollutant trichloroethene. My interest was rekindled after talking to Claudia Vickers, who, at the University of Essex, developed transgenic tobacco plants that emit isoprene. This led me to read more about this fascinating volatile compound. Having learnt that many micro(algae) produce isoprene, I suggested that Laura Acuña Alvarez should change the direction of her PhD, which resulted in the discovery of a bacterial sink for isoprene in the marine environment (Acuña Alvarez et al., 2009). This stimulated discussions with Colin Murrell, which led to the current grant, investigating the mechanisms of isoprene cycling on land. Colleagues also became interested in the marine isoprene cycle, and a co-supervised PhD student, Dan Exton, advanced our understanding of the factors influencing isoprene production, and identified estuaries as hot spots of isoprene production (Exton et al., 2012). Rameez Subhan has a NERC EnvEast PhD studentship (between Essex and UEA), investigating the cycling of isoprene in coastal and estuarine environments. Preye Odubo (funded by Bayelsa State Scholarship Board, Nigeria) has just started a PhD investigating how and why bacteria produce isoprene.
Andrew Crombie – Senior Research Associate, University of East Anglia
Currently my research is directed at bacterial degradation of isoprene, a climate-active atmospheric trace gas. As a hydrocarbon emitted to the atmosphere in quantities second only to methane, the terpene isoprene is produced by plants. Some bacteria are able to use this compound as a growth substrate but their diversity and the enzymes and mechanisms employed are largely unknown. However some, at least, use a soluble di-iron centre monooxygenase, isoprene moxooygenase, as the first step in this metabolic pathway. Our lab is now investigating the biochemistry and regulation of isoprene degradation in environmental isolates and also in a model isoprene-degrading strain, Rhodococcus sp. AD45.
Tracy Lawson – Reader in Plant Physiology, University of Essex
Researcg areas include plant growth, water use effiency, and environmental influences on plant photosynthetic performance. Recent work has focused on the stomatal control of atmospheric gas entry into the leaf, associated water loss and the mechanisms that regulate this process. I am interested in plant responses to a dynamic light environment and use a range of novel tools to examine stomatal and photosynthetic kinetics including chlorophyll fluoresecence and thermal imaging. Other research interests include aquatic photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation and plant microbial interactions. My lab is also involved in developing new gas exchange systems to examine the role of gases on plant performance.
Nasmille Mejia Florez – PhD Student, University of East Anglia
Project:- Isoprene-degrading microbes their role in the environment
The overall aim of my project is to obtain a critical, fundamental understanding of the metabolism and ecological importance of biological isoprene degradation and to test the hypothesis that isoprene-degrading bacteria play a crucial role in moderating isoprene flux to the atmosphere. This will be achieved by isolation and characterization of isoprene degraders from soil and leaves and the use of cultivation-independent techniques to study the ecology of these bacteria.
Odubo Tamaraukepreye Catherine – PhD Student, University of Essex
Project:- Finding new isoprene synthases for biotechnology
Isoprene is produced by many plants, bacteria and other organisms but the enzyme isoprene synthase responsible for isoprene production has been identified and characterized only in plants. Therefore the aim of my project is to identify and investigate isoprene synthases from microbes (Bacteria, Archaea and microalgae) and better understand why Bacteria, especially Bacillus species produce isoprene.