Julie Huber

huber_headshotWho am I?

I am an Associate Scientist in the Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Until recently, I was an Associate Scientist at the MBL and served as the Associate Director of the Josephine Bay Paul Center. I am trained as a microbial oceanographer and my research program investigates subseafloor microbial ecosystems in oceanic crust to resolve the extent, function, evolutionary dynamics, and biogeochemical impact of the deep marine biosphere. I currently serve as the Associate Director of the NSF Science and Technology Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI), with the mission to explore life beneath the seafloor and make transformative discoveries that advance science, benefit society, and inspire people of all ages and origins.

What do I do?

My research addresses questions that are central to the nature and extent of life on Earth in one of its least explored corners, the deep ocean. It is focused on microorganisms, who for more than three billion years have served as engines of Earth’s biosphere, driving essential biogeochemical cycles that shape planetary habitability. Exploration of the sea over the last 40 years has resulted in astounding discoveries about the extent and diversity of life in the deep ocean, pushing our understanding of the intimate connections between the biosphere and geosphere to the extremes, including the discovery of chemosynthetic ecosystems at hydrothermal vents and active microbes buried in sediments, kilometers beneath the seafloor. In fact, the global ocean comprises Earth’s biggest microbiome, with at least half of the ocean’s microbial biomass occurring beneath the ocean floor. My main environment of interest is the largest actively flowing aquifer system on Earth, the fluids circulating through oceanic crust underlying the oceans and sediments. There is a vast flow of fluid exchanging between ocean basins and crustal reservoirs and mediating transport of heat, solutes, genetic material, microorganisms, and viruses. Despite our advancing knowledge about life in the deep ocean, our understanding of microorganisms in the rocky oceanic crust and the fluids flowing through it is limited. The biogeochemical consequences of an extensive population of microbes living in the subseafloor remains unknown, and the potential for production of new biomass within the crust is rarely considered in traditional oceanographic paradigms of carbon cycling or microbial food webs.

Why do I come to the MBL?
I first came to the MBL as a NASA Astrobiology Institute postdoctoral fellow in 2005 to work with Mitch Sogin in the Bay Paul Center and shortly thereafter joined the faculty. The MBL is world-renowned for its work on microbial ecosystems in the oceans, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Bay Paul and Ecosystems to examine microbial biogeochemistry in diverse marine and aquatic habitats around the globe.

What do I plan to do/work on at the MBL

I will continue to work with my colleagues at MBL on a few projects, including with Joe Vallino in the Ecosystem Center on microbial biogeochemistry using chemostat experiments, as well as with my colleagues in the Bay Paul Center on application of emerging next-generation sequencing tools to understand microbial communities. In addition, I will continue to teach at the MBL in the undergraduate Semester in Environmental Sciences class, as well as the summer Microbial Diversity course.

More Information:

See Julie’s website: https://www2.whoi.edu/staff/jhuber/

Audio and Video Files:
Microbial Oceanography Video

Microbes in the Deep Dark Ocean Podcast

WCAI Stream: There’s Life in Rocks Deep Below the Sea Floor. Seriously.

Other related links: Cape Cod Wave Article