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Department of Biology


Matt Schrenk


Assistant Professor

Area of Study: 









Howell S303


Department of Biology


East Carolina University


Greenville, NC 27858


Research Program

Microbiology of the Subsurface Biosphere: Subsurface environments beneath the continents and the oceans represent the most expansive habitat on Earth, yet that which we know the least about. Our laboratory studies the diversity, distribution, and activities of microorganisms in the deep subsurface biosphere using molecular biological approaches coupled with geochemical analyses. Our focus is on high pH (10-12) microbial ecosystems created by the serpentinization of ultramafic rocks from the deep Earth. We also study high temperature microbial ecosystems associated with volcanically-driven hydrothermal venting in the oceans. Investigation of these ecosystems will provide insight into the contributions of subsurface microorganisms to the global carbon budget, and may have applications ranging from biotechnology and alternative energy strategies.   Lab website:www.schrenklab.com

Courses Taught

BIOL 3220, 3221. Microbiology.

BIOL 4130. Astrobiology: The Planetary Context of Life

BIOL 6992. Microbial Biogeography

Recent Publications

S. Seager, W. Bains, M. Schrenk. 2012. An Astrophysical view of Earth-based metabolism. Astrobiology. 12:61-82

Brazelton, W.J., B. Nelson, M.O. Schrenk. 2011. Metagenomic evidence of H2 oxidation and H2 production by serpentinite-hosted subsurface microbial communities. Frontiers in Extreme Microbiology 2:268. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2011.00268

Schrenk, M.O., J.A. Huber, K.J. Edwards. 2010. Microbial provinces in the subseafloor. Ann. Rev. Mar. Sci. 2. 279-304.

Y. Jiao, G.D. Cody, A.K. Harding, P. Wilmes, M. Schrenk, K.E. Wheeler, J.F. Banfield, M.P. Thelen. 2010. Characterization of Extracellular Polymeric Substances from Acidophilic Microbial Biofilms. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 76: 2916-2922.

Schrenk, M.O., J.F. Holden, J.A. Baross. 2008. Magma-to-Microbe Networks in Seafloor Sulfide Deposits. In Magma to Microbe at Mid Ocean Ridges. AGU Monograph. R. Lowell, A. Metaxas (Eds.).

W.J. Brazelton, M.O. Schrenk, D.S. Kelley, J.A. Baross. 2006. Methane and sulfur metabolizing microbial communities dominate in the Lost City Hydrothermal Field ecosystem. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 72(9):6257-6270.

Baross, J.A., J.A. Huber, and
M.O. Schrenk. 2006. Limits of Carbon Life on Earth and Elsewhere. In Planets and Life: The Emerging Science of Astrobiology. J.A. Baross and W.T. Sullivan (Eds). Cambridge University Press.

Kelley, D.S., J. Karson, G. Früh-Green, D. Yoerger, T. Shank, D. Butterfield, J. Hayes,
M.O. Schrenk, E. Olson,G. Proskurowski, M. Jakuba, A. Bradley, B. Larson, K. Ludwig, D. Glickson, K. Buckman, A.S. Bradley, W. Brazelton, K. Roe, M. Elend, A.Delacour, S. Bernasconi, m. Lilley, J. Baross, R. Summons, S. Sylva. 2005. A Serpentinite-hosted ecosystem: The Lost City Hydrothermal Field. Science. 307: 1428-1434.

Laboratory Personnel

Postdoctoral Researcher

William "Billy" Brazelton NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow Ph.D. Oceanography, U. of Washington, 2010
Tracing energy, carbon, and nitrogen flow in serpentinization-fueled microbial ecosystems

Ph.D. Student

Katrina Twing 

Katrina Twing M.Sc. Marine Science,
U. of Delaware, 2009 B.A., Biology,
Clark University, 2007

Molecular detection of microbes metabolizing geochemical products of serpentinization

M.Sc. Students

Alyssa Kloysuntia 

Alyssa Kloysuntia B.Sc., Biology,
East Carolina University, 2011

Associating a gene related to microbial pigmentation and evaluate the evolution of the gene amongst species in different alkaline geographical locations. Look to see if the gene is suppressed or expressed based upon several environmental factors such as pH, anoxic conditions, nutrients available, and light intensity. Finding if the pigments are related to any environmental stress factors

 Crystal George

Crystal George B.Sc., Biology,
East Carolina University, 2011

Culturing anaerobic samples from current serpentinite research sites. Cell counting and isolating to determine different strains of microbes present at different sites.

 Joe Blackburn

Joe Blackburn B.Sc., Biology,
East Carolina University, 2012

Master's Student


Kinsey Massey 

Kinsey Massey B.Sc., Biochemistry,
East Carolina University, expected 2012

Culturing water samples from serpentinite sites around the world with brightly colored pigments known as carotenoids. Using pigment extraction and spectrophotomerty, the goal of my experiment is to quantify these pigments.

 Megan Shaia

Megan Shaia B.Sc., Biology,
East Carolina University, expected 2013

Cell counting serpentinite-fluids to quantify microbes present in samples