Linda Amaral-Zettler

laz_elpais_croppedWho am I?

I am a Senior Scientist at the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research on the island of Texel in North Holland, but Woods Hole is my scientific birthplace. I first visited as a WHOI summer student fellow in my junior year at Brown University, continued as a guest student to do my undergraduate Honors thesis, and later received my Ph.D. from the MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Graduate Program in Biological Oceanography. In the fall of 1996, I started as a postdoc at MBL’s newly founded Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, under the directorship and mentorship of Mitch Sogin. Twenty years and many titles later, I exchanged my role as a resident MBL Scientist for a visiting MBL Fellow appointment. In addition to being part of the MBL scientific community, I am also an Adjunct Faculty member of the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences at Brown University where I co-mentor two graduate students.

What do I do?

I consider myself an aquatic microbial ecologist. My research investigates the relationships between microbes and the mechanisms that determine their diversity, distribution, survival and impact on local and global processes. From 2004-2010, I served as the Program Manager and Education and Outreach Lead for the International Census of Marine Microbes (, a global effort to census the microbial ocean as part of the Census of Marine Life Program co-led by the MBL and NIOZ, my new home institution. I then developed and led the NSF-funded MIRADA-LTERS project that carried out microbial biodiversity inventories and is still exploring large-scale patterns in microbial biogeography across the 13 aquatic US Long Term Ecological Research Sites. My research employs next generation sequencing techniques to understand the presence and persistence of pathogens, harmful algal blooming species, and other microbes in the natural and man-made environment. My current microbiome research interests include microbes on Plastic Marine Debris known as the “Plastisphere” and ornamental and cultured fish microbiomes. I have published in PNAS, Nature, ISME, Environmental Science and Technology and other top journals in microbial ecology.

Why do I come to the MBL?
The MBL provides a vibrant and exciting atmosphere to collaborate at the bleeding edge of research and has been at the forefront of new technologies and analytical tools that have reshaped microbial ecology and ‘omics’ sciences. I return to the MBL regularly to learn from, participate in, and contribute to the MBL and the extended Woods Hole scientific community.

What do I do/work on at the MBL?

I maintain a small research group at the MBL continuing my studies of the “Plastisphere” – the thin layer of mostly microbial life on the outside of Plastic Debris. My current projects at the MBL include understanding the role of microbial biofilms in changing the density of plastic resins over time. I also collaborate with the Jessica Mark Welch Lab to visualize the spatial structure of biofilm communities on plastic debris via CLASI-FISH (Combinatorial Labelling and Spectral Imaging – Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization) methods. Next year, my lab will be participating in processing and analyzing samples from the Longest Swim Campaign and Ben Lecompte’s efforts to swim across the Pacific in efforts to raise awareness about ocean health.

More Information:

See Linda’s website: