Edward DeLong, Ph.D.

Biology and evolution of marine microbes


Focusing on describing the nature, function and ecology of oceanic microbial life in the water column, from sunlit surface waters to the cold, deep-sea.

Edward DeLong, Ph.D.

Research Description

Microorganisms and their activities are the engines that drive the cycling of energy and matter in the sea. For that reason, our lab focuses on describing the nature, function and ecology of oceanic microbial life in the water column, from sunlit surface waters to the cold, deep-sea. We develop and apply new approaches that leverage advanced technologies including genomics, computational biology, and robotic underwater vehicles, and apply them to study the dynamic microbial ocean. Our central aim is to describe the key functions, ecological interactions and functional importance of microbial life in the sea. Some questions we are currently asking include:

  • How do changes in the structure and function of depth-stratified microbial species influence matter and energy cycling at different depths?
  • What microbes and microbial activities are specifically involved in the transformation of dissolved and particulate organic matter in different habitats?
  • How do microbial interactions and activities vary in response to environmental change, and what is the ecological significance of this variability?

Our ultimate goal is to provide a better predictive understanding of the microorganisms, processes and interactions that ultimately make up the microbial engine that powers matter and energy transformation in the living sea.

Research Impact

Microbial metabolic diversity and environmental variation together lead to changes in biological matter and energy flux in the sea. Time series and in situ studies will be leveraged to better describe how microorganisms and their activities co-vary with one another, and with environmental changes.

In addition, genomic, oceanographic and biogeochemical data will be used to interpret patterns of microbial diversity, habitat variability, and variability in microbial processes and functions. New observations of microbial diversity and functional distribution and variability are expected to help refine models, that in turn will redirect modified field and laboratory studies, experiments and measurements, in iterative learning cycles.

Specific deliverables from our project include:

  1. Application of drifting and autonomous robotic sampling devices will provide new molecular, physiological and biogeochemical information on the environmental responses and interactions within in situ microbial populations. We expect to reveal previously unseen dynamic interactions between sympatric species, phages and hosts, and other multispecies interactions that are relevant to nutrient cycling, hydrodynamics, and biogeochemistry on time scales of hours to days.
  2. We will describe in detail specific microbial types and interactions that are associated with sinking and suspended particulate organic matter throughout the ocean’s water column. In addition, we will identify microbial types, biological interactions, and biogeochemical pathways that uniquely occur on particles, and elucidate metabolic pathways and enzymes responsible for particulate organic matter degradation.

Our project activities are expected to help create more defined and detailed predictions about emergent properties that arise from marine microbial interactions and dynamics, and to provide a better understanding of critical variables that drive energy and matter flux in ocean ecosystems. Ultimately our project outcomes should contribute to an improved qualitative and quantitative understanding of the dynamic living ocean system.

Media Press

University of Hawai'i Foundation - David Karl and Edward DeLong awarded $4.2M to pursue high risk research in marine microbial ecology

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute - Diverse groups of marine microbes respond in unison to changes in their environment

MIT News - Microbiologists eavesdrop on the hidden lives of microbes

C-More - Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education - University of Hawai'i - Storer Lectureship in Life Sciences


related links

Marine Microbiology Initiative Science University of Hawaii Foundation Back


Ph.D., Marine Biology 
Scripps Institute of Oceanography, 1986

B.S., Bacteriology
University of California Davis, 1982

A.S., Biology
Santa Rosa Junior College, 1980


A.G. Huntsman Award for Excellence in Marine Science, 2014 

UC Davis College of Biological Sciences 
Outstanding Alumni Award
UC Davis, October 2012

Elected Fellow
American Association for the Advancement of Science

American Society for Microbiology 

American Society for Microbiology 
D.C. White Research and Mentoring Award

Elected Fellow
National Academy of Sciences U. S. A.
April 2008


Crowe, S. A., J. A. Maresca, C. Jones, A. Sturm, C. Henny, D. A. Fowle, R. P. Cox, E. F. Delong, & D. E. Canfield. (2014). Deep‐water anoxygenic photosythesis in a ferruginous chemocline. Geobiology, 12(4), 322-339. doi: 10.1111/gbi.12089

Durham, B., J. Grote, K. Whittaker, S. Bender, H. Luo, S. Grim, J. Brown, J. Casey, A. Dron, L. Florez-Leiva, A. Krupke, C. Luria, A. Mine, O.  Nigro, S.  Pather, A. Talarmin, T. Wear, T. Weber, J. Wilson, M. J. Church, E. F. DeLong, D. M. Karl, G. F. Steward, J. Eppley, N. C. Kyrpides, S. C. Schuster, & M. S. Rappe. (2014). Draft genome sequence of marine alphaproteobacterial strain HIMB11, the first cultivated representative of a unique lineage within the Roseobacter clade possessing an unusually small genome. Stand. Genomic Sci., 9(3), 632-645 doi: 10.4056/sigs.4998989

Lincoln, S. A., B. Wai, J. M. Eppley, M. J. Church, R. E. Summons, & E. F. DeLong. (2014). Planktonic Euryarchaeota are a significant source of archaeal tetraether lipids in the ocean. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 201409439. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1409439111

Thrash, J. C., B. Temperton, B. K. Swan, Z. C. Landry, T. Woyke, E. F. DeLong, R. Stepanauskas, & S. J. Giovannoni. (2014). Single-cell enabled comparative genomics of a deep ocean SAR11 bathytype. ISME J, 8, 1440-1451. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2013.243

Yoshizawa, S., Y. Kumagai, H. Kim, Y. Ogura, T. Hayashi, W. Iwasaki, E. F. DeLong, & K. Kogure. (2014). Functional characterization of flavobacteria rhodopsins reveals a unique class of light-driven chloride pump in bacteria. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 111(18), 6732-6737. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1403051111

Gilbert, J. A., G. J. Dick, B.  Jenkins, J. Heidelberg, E. Allen, K. R. M. Mackey, & E. F. DeLong. (2014). Meeting report: Ocean ‘omics science, technology and cyberinfrastructure: current challenges and future requirements (August 20-23, 2013). Stand. Genomic Sci., 9(3). doi: 10.4056/sigs.5749944

Affiliated Investigators