Dr. Alison E. Murray

Research Professor Biology
microbial ecology, genomics, extreme environments, Antarctic, polar, biogeochemistry, microbial diversity, astrobiology, biological oceanography, adaptation

Professional Interests

Dr. Murray is a molecular microbial ecologist with research interests centered around a common theme of utilizing molecular biological and genomic approaches to describe the diversity of life, understand the evolutionary history, ecological roles, and physiological capacity and capabilities of microorganisms that inhabit environments (or other organisms) several of which are considered to be at the extremes of where life exists. Dr. Murray has had long term interests in developing technologies to study microorganisms in the natural environment. Recent work has been dedicated to developing environmental genomics technologies for studying gene expression in organisms sampled directly from the environment, thereby circumventing the need for cultivation. Her research is interdisciplinary in nature, drawing upon oceanography, geosciences, computational biology, and chemistry. She collaborates with a number of scientists with expertise in these fields.

Dr. Murray’s research has taken her and members of her research group to the Antarctic Peninsula and the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, deep sea hydrothermal vents of the East Pacific Rise, and Yellowstone National Park to study the microorganisms inhabiting these diverse, and extreme ecosystems. She has also worked locally in Lake Tahoe to characterize the diversity of organisms throughout the water column and in different periods of stratification through the year.

Research Areas of Expertise

  • Microbial diversity and evolution
  • Archaeal and bacterial ecology
  • Microbial genomics, specifically, functional and comparative genomics
  • Development of molecular biology techniques to solve ecological problems

Research Project Web Sites

Research Highlights

Selected Publications

Marion, GM, AE Murray, B Wagner, CH Fritsen, F Kenig PT Doran. (2013). Carbon sequestration and release from Antarctic Lakes: Lake Vida and West Lake Bonney. Aquatic Geochem. 19:135-145. doi:10.1007/s10498-012-9184-1.

Murray, AE, F Kenig, CH Fritsen, CP McKay, KM Cawley, R Edwards, E Kuhn, DM McKnight, NE Ostrom, V Peng, A Ponce, JC Priscu, V Samarkin, AT Townsend, P Wagh, SA Young, PT Yung, PT Doran. (2012). Microbial life at -13°C in the brine of an ice-sealed Antarctic Lake. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci.USA. 2012; 109:20626-20631. doi:10.1073/pnas.1208607109

Ghiglione, JF, PE Galand, T Pommier, C Pedrós-Alio, EW Maas, K Bakker, S Bertilson, DL Kirchman, C Lovejoy, PL Yager, AE Murray. (2012). Pole to pole biogeography of surface and deep marine bacterial communities. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. doi:10.1073/pnas.120816109.

Chown, SL, JE Lee, KA Hughes, J Barnes, PJ Barrett, DM Bergstrom, P Convey, DA Cowan, K Crosbie, G Dyer, Y Frenot, SM Grant, D Herr, MC Kennicutt, M Lamers, AE Murray, HP Possingham, K Reid, MJ Riddle, PG Ryan, L Sanson, JD Shaw,  MD Sparrow, C Summerhayes, A Terauds, DH Wall. (2012). Challenges to the Future Conservation of the Antarctic. Science 337(6091): 158-159

Grzymski, JJ, CS Riesenfeld , TJ Williams, AM Dussaq, H Ducklow, M Erickson, R Cavicchioli, & AE Murray. (2012). A metagenomic assessment of winter and summer bacterioplankton from Antarctic Peninsula coastal surface waters. ISME Journal 6:1901-1905; doi: 10.1038/ismej.2012.31

Williams, TJ, E Long, F Evans, MZ DeMaere, FM Lauro, MJ Raftery, H Ducklow, JJ Grzymski, AE Murray, R Cavicchioli. (2012). A metaproteomic assessment of summer and winter bacterioplankton from Antarctic Peninsula coastal surface waters. ISME Journal 6:1883-1900; doi:10.1038/ismej.2012.28

Ghiglione, JF, and AE Murray. (2012). Pronounced summer to winter differences and higher wintertime richness in coastal Antarctic marine bacterioplankton. Environ. Microbiol. 14(3): 617-629; DOI: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2011.02601.x

Vernet, M., KL Smith Jr., AO Cefarelli, JJ Helly, RS Kaufmann, H Lin, DG Long, AE Murray, BH Robison, HA Ruhl, TJ Shaw, AD Sherman, J Sprintall, GR Stephenson Jr., KM Stuart, BS Twining. (2012). Islands of ice: Influence of free-drifting Antarctic icebergs on pelagic marine ecosystems. Oceangr. 25(3): 38-39.

Cruz-García, C, AE Murray, JLM Rodrigues, JA Gralnick, LA McCue, MF Romine, FE Löffler, JM Tiedje. (2011). Fnr (EtrA) acts as a fine-tuning regulator of anaerobic metabolism in Shewanella oneidensis MR-1. BMC Microbiology. 11:64.

Ducklow, HW, KMS Myers, M Erickson, JF Ghiglione, AE Murray. (2011).  Response of a summertime Antarctic marine bacterial community to glucose and ammonium enrichment. Aquat. Microb. Ecol. 64:205-220.

Murray, AE, V Peng, C Tyler, P Wagh (2011). Marine bacterioplankton biomass, activity and community structure in the vicinity of Antarctic icebergs. Deep Sea Research, II. 58: 1407-1421. doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2010.11.021.

Smith, Jr., KL, AD Sherman, T Shaw, AE Murray, M Vernet, A Cefarelli. (2011). Carbon export associated with free-drifting icebergs in the Southern Ocean.  Deep Sea Research, II. 58:1485-1496.

Straza, TRA, HW Ducklow, AE Murray, and DL Kirchman (2010). Abundance and single-cell activity of bacterial groups in Antarctic coastal waters. Limnol. Oceangr. 55: 2010, 2526-2536.

Ayala-del-Río, HL, PS Chain, JJ Grzymski, MA Ponder, N Ivanova, PW Bergholz, GD Bartolo, L Hauser, M Land, C Bakermans, D Rodrigues, J Klappenbach, D Zarka, F Larimer, P Richardson, A Murray, M Thomashow, and JM Tiedje (2010). The genome sequence of Psychrobacter arcticus 273-4, a psychroactive Siberian permafrost bacterium reveals mechanisms for adaptation to low temperature growth. Appl. Env. Microbiol. 76: 2304-2312.

Ducklow, HW, XAG. Moran, AE Murray (2010). Bacteria in the Greenhouse: Marine Microbes and Climate Change.  Environmental Microbiology 2nd Edition. Ed. R. Mitchell and JI-Dong. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboten NJ.  pp. 1-32.

Kaplarevic, M, AE Murray, SC Cary, GR Gao (2008). EnGENIUS - Environmental Genome Informational Utility System. J. Bioinform. Comput. Biol. 6:1193-1211.

Nassar, S., GL Vert, M. Nicolescu, AE Murray. Multisequence assembly for prokaryotes and eukaryotes using fuzzy logic. International Journal of Information Technology and Intelligent Computing. In press.

Grzymski, JJ, AE Murray (shared primary authorship), BJ Campbell, M Kaplarevic GR Gao, C Lee, R Daniel, A Ghadiri, RA Feldman, SC Cary (2008). Metagenome analysis of an extreme microbial symbiosis reveals eurythermal adaptation and metabolic flexibility. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 105:17516-17521.

Riesenfeld, CS, AE Murray, BJ Baker (2008). Characterization of the microbial consortia and polyketide synthetic potential in the Palmerolide-producing tunicate, Synoicum adareanum. Journal of Natural Products. DOI: 10.1021/np800287n.

Doran, P, CH Fritsen, AE Murray, F Kenig, C McKay, J Kyne (2008). Entry approach into pristine ice-sealed lakes – Lake Vida, East Antarctica, a model ecosystem. Limnol. Oceanogr Meth. 6:532-54.

Lee, CK, SC Cary, AE Murray, RM Daniel (2008). Enzymatic approach to eurythermalism of Alvinella pompejana and its episymbionts. Appl. Env. Microbiol. 74:774-782.

Passow U, C. De La Rocha, C Arnosti, H-P Grossart, AE Murray, and A Engel (2007). Microbial dynamics in autotrophic and heterotrophic seawater mesocosms: I Overview of an experiment investigating the impact of phytoplankton on the microbial loop. Aquatic Microbial Ecology. 49:109-121.

Murray, AE, C Arnosti, C L De La Rocha, HP Grossart, and U Passow (2007). Microbial dynamics in autotrophic and heterotrophic seawater mesocosms: II Bacterial community structure and hydrolytic enzyme activities. Aquatic Microbial Ecology. 49:123-141.

Grossart, H-P A Engel, C Arnosti, C De La Rocha, AE Murray, and U Passow (2007). Microbial dynamics in autotrophic and heterotrophic seawater mesocosms: III Organic matter fluxes. Aquatic Microbial Ecology. 49:143-156.

Hollibaugh, J.T., C. Lovejoy and A.E. Murray (2007). Microbiology in Polar Oceans. Oceanography 20 (2):138-143.

Murray, AE and JJ Grzymski (2007). Diversity and genomics of Antarctic marine microorganisms. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Ser. B. 362:2259-2271; DOI 10.1098/rstb.2006.1944.

Cruz-Garcia, C., A.E. Muray, J.A. Klappenbach, V. Stewart, J.M. Tiedje (2007). Respiratory nitrate ammonification by Shewanella oneidensis MR-1. J. Bacteriol. 189: 656-662

Mosier, A.C., A.E. Murray, C.H. Fritsen (2007). Microbiota within the perennial ice cover of Lake Vida, Antarctica. FEMS Microb. Ecol. 59 (2):274-288.

Martin, D., R.M. Ross, L. B. Quetin, and A.E. Murray. (2006). Molecular approach (PCR-DGGE) to diet analysis in young Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 319:155-165.

Grzymski, J.J., , B. Carter, E.F. DeLong, R. Feldman, A. Ghadiri, A.E. Murray (2006). Comparative genomics of DNA fragments from six Antarctic marine, planktonic bacteria. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 72 (2):1532-1541.

Peck, L.S., M.S. Clark, A. Clarke, C.S. Cockell, P. Convey, H.W, Detrich III, K.P.P. Fraser, I.A. Johnston, B.A. Methe, A.E. Murray, K. Römisch, A.D. Rogers (2005). Genomics: Applications to Antarctic Ecosystems. Polar Biol. 28(5):351-365.

Murray, A.E. (2002). Archaea in Marine Environments. In: Encyclopedia of Environmental Microbiology, Ed. Gabriel Bitton. John Wiley and Sons Inc., 2002. Pp. 276-293.

Murray, A.E., D.L. Lies, G. Li, K.H. Nealson, J. Zhou, J.M. Tiedje (2001). DNA:DNA hybridization to microarrays reveals gene-specific differences between closely related microbial genomes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 98 (17):9853-9858. PDF file

Murray, A.E., A. Blakis, R. Massana. S. Straszewski, U. Passow, A. Alldredge, and E.F. Delong (1999). 
A time series assessment of planktonic archaeal variability in Santa Barbara Channel. Aquat. Microbial Ecol. 20:129-145.

Murray, A.E., K.Y. Wu, C. Moyer, D. M. Karl and E.F. Delong (1999). Evidence for circumpolar distribution of planktonic archaea in the Southern hemisphere. Aquat. Microbial Ecol. 18:263-273.

Murray, A.E., C.M. Preston, R. Massana, L.T. Taylor, A. Blakis, and E.F. DeLong (1998). Seasonal and spatial variability in coastal Antarctic bacterioplankton assemblages. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 64(7): 2585-2595.

Massana, R., A.E. Murray, C.M. Preston, and E.F. DeLong (1997). Vertical distribution and phylogenetic characterization of marine planktonic Archaea in the Santa Barbara Channel. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 63(1):50-56.

Murray, A.E., J.T. Hollibaugh and C. Orrego (1996). Phylogenetic compositions of bacterioplankton from two California estuaries compared by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis of 16S rDNA fragments. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 62(7):2676-2680.


Ph.D. 1998 University of California, 
Santa Barbara, CA
Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology
M.S. 1994 San Francisco State University, 
San Francisco, CA
Cell and Molecular Biology
B.S. 1989 Cal Poly State University, 
San Luis Obispo, CA


Year Received 



2008 Regents’ Rising Researcher Award, Nevada Board of Regents


2006 Peter B. Wagner Medal of Excellence for DRI Scholars in the Early States of Career Development


Distinguished Alumni Award, Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies, SFSU


  • US Representative to the Scientific Standing Group in Life Sciences (LSSSG), on the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Appointment by the Polar Research Board, 2004-2014.
  • Antarctic Biodiversity Information Facility International Steering Committee (ANTABIF).
  • Palmer Area Users Committee, 2009-present.
  • Guest Editor for Polar Microbiology Special Issue of Environmental Microbiology to celebrate the International Polar Year (published March 2009).
  • Census of Antarctic Marine Life Steering Committee (CAML), 2004-2010.
  • DRI faculty senator, 2007-2010; Program and Budget Committee member, 2007-2010.

Research Projects

Current Projects: Antarctic Microbial Biology
Lake Vida drilling

Website: Geochemistry and Microbiology of the Extreme Aquatic Environment in Lake Vida, East Antarctica: Lake Vida III: Developing a comprehensive understanding of Lake Vida – from the past to the present – life, biogeochemical function, geochemical composition and paleohistory of its microbial inhabitants.

Icy world Website: Astrobiology of Icy Worlds (NASA Astrobiology Institute Program)
Past Projects: Antarctic Microbial Biology
View from Glacier

Website: IPY: Bacterioplankton Genomic Adaptations to Antarctic Winter

DRI Project page
Blue shades iceberg

Website: Free-Drifting Icebergs as Proliferating Dispersion Sites of Iron Enrichment, Organic Carbon Production and Export in the Southern Ocean

DRI Project page
Lake Vida camp

Subsurface ice and brine sampling: life detection and characterization in the McMurdo Dry Valleys using an ultrasonic gopher.

DRI Project page
Polaribacter irgensii

Genome Sequencing of two Antarctic bacteria – a marine Actinobacterium, str. PHSC20C1 and a sea-ice associated bacterium, Polaribacter irgensii, 23-P. (Supported by the Marine Microbiology Initiative Program at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation)

DRI Project page

 GenEx 2 - Gene Expression in Extreme Environments: Extending Microarray Technology to Understand Life at its Limits (Supported by the NSF- LExEn program - LexEn Website

DRI Project page

Genome Maps

Environmental genomics of Antarctic marine bacterioplankton using a large-contig sequencing approach.

DRI Project page

Past Projects: Hydrothermal Microbial Biology

Vent Epibiont Environmental Genome (VEEG) - A meta-genome level analysis of an extreme microbial symbiosis.

DRI Project page

Mammoth Hot Springs

Geobiology and the emergence of terraced architecture during carbonate mineralization.

DRI Project page

Molecular Microbial Ecology Laboratory

Located in Reno, Nevada, the Molecular Microbial Ecology Lab is fully equipped for state of the art molecular biology, genomics, and bioinformatics research including capabilities to facilitate high-throughput molecular biology work, cultivation and recombinant DNA research.

Murray Lab Group
Alison Murray in the labChristian Riesenfeld Christian.Riesenfeld@dri.edu postdoc   fellowship, NSF Biologic InformaticsProtima   Wagh, Biotechnology, BS-MS degree program, College of Agriculture,   Biotechnology and Natural Resources, UNRGraduate   Committee Membership, Kristen Myers, Brown University-MBLStaff   Scientist Vivian Peng,  BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UCBResearch Intern Charlotte Tyler, B.S. Biochemistry and Molecular   Biology, UNR

Past lab members:

Post-doctoral researcher: Dr. Joseph Grzymski

Graduate students:
  • Alexandra Kameda (Environmental Sciences and Health, M.S., UNR, Dec. 2006)
  • Annika Mosier (Environmental Resource Sciences, M.S., UNR, Dec. 2004
Graduate students (committee member):
  • Dr. Sara Nassar, (Computer Science and Engineering, UNR; Ph.D. May 2008)
  • Dr. Kendra Zamzow, (Environmental Sciences and Health, UNR. Ph.D. Dec. 2007)
  • Dr. Mihailo Kaplarevic (Computer Engineering, Ph.D., U. Delaware, Apr 2007)
  • Nipesh Shah (Computer Science, M.S. UNR, Dec., 2004)
  • Sarah Marshall (Environmental Sciences and Health, M.S., UNR, July, 2002)
  • Dr. Claribel Cruz-Garcia (Soil Sciences, Ph.D. MSU Aug. 2002)
Undergraduate students:
  • Alex Dussaq, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UNR Fall 2006 - Spring 2008; INBRE Summer research Fellowship Summer 2007, and NSF EPSCOR Undergraduate Research Fellowship 07-08 academic year
  • Scott Lucas, Biology, UNR, Fall 2004 through Spring 2006
  • Devin Currie, UM Amherst, Summer 2005
  • Jason Michaels, Biochemistry, UNR, Spring 2003
  • Alexandra Kameda (Biology, UNR Summer-Fall 2002)
High School students:
  • Alex Dussaq (Summer 2006)
  • Kaitlyn Shakleton (Summer 2005)
  • David Shakleton (Summer 2003)

Academic Affiliations

Adjunct Professor, University of Nevada, Reno:


UNR: Current Issues in Microbial Ecology Seminar (UNR-ERS 793C)

NSF-sponsored International Graduate Training Course "Interactive Biology and Adaptation of Antarctic Organisms"

NASA Space Grant sponsored Nevada Geobiology Summer Short Course

Information for Prospective Students

Coming Soon



Dugan, H., Doran, P., Wagner, B., Kenig, F., Fritsen, C. H., Arcone, S., Kuhn, E., Ostrom, N., Warnock, J., Murray, A. E. (2015). 27 m of lake ice on an Antarctic lake reveals past hydrologic variability, Cryosphere


Murray, A. E., Kenig, F., Fritsen, C. H., McKay, C., Cawley, K., Edwards, R., Kuhn, E., McKnight, D., Ostrom, N., Peng, V., Ponce, A., Priscu, J., Samarkin, V., Townsend, A., Wagh, P., Young, S., Yung, P., Doran, P. (2012). Microbial life at -13 C in the brine of an ice-sealed Antarctic lake, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1208607109


Doran, P., Fritsen, C. H., Murray, A. E., Kenig, F., McKay, C., Kyne, J. (2008). Entry Approach into pristine ice-sealed lakes - Lake Vida, East Antarctica, a model ecosystem, Limnology and Oceanography: Methods, 6, 542-547