Alison Elizabeth Murray

Molecular, biological and genomic research

About Dr. Alison Murray

Dr. Murray is a molecular microbial ecologist and biological oceanographer 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 free-living and symbiotic microorganisms 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 taken Murray and her team to the Southern Ocean to study broad large scale ecosystem patterns in picoplankton. Murray’s also been involved in NASA’s new Ocean Worlds program and was co-chair of a Europa Lander Science Definition Team. Much of her work has been dedicated to developing environmental genomics technologies for detecting and studying organisms sampled directly from the environment, thereby circumventing the need for cultivation. Her research is interdisciplinary in nature, drawing upon oceanography, geosciences, computational biology, astrobiology and chemistry. She collaborates with a large network of scientists nationally and in Europe, Australia and New Zealand with expertise in these fields.

Dr. Murray’s research has taken her and members of her research group to the Antarctic Peninsula and Northwestern Weddell Sea and the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, the North Slope of Alaska and coastal Arctic, 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 the Sierra Nevada snowpack to characterize the nature and diversity of organisms in snow (i.e. snow algae and bacteria) and throughout the water column of Lake Tahoe in different periods of stratification through the year.

Research Areas of Expertise

  • Diversity, ecology, and evolution of archaea and bacteria, focus on marine systems
  • Polar microbial ecosystems
  • Environmental microbial genomics, specifically, functional and comparative genomics
  • Astrobiology, life detection methods

Current Research

Research Highlights

  • Dr. Murray participated in a Public Panel discussion and public debate on the link between life in the Antarctic and outside planet earth – Antarctica into Space at the SCAR Biology meeting, in Leuven Belgium, July 2017.
  • Dr. Murray served as the co-chair for the Europa Lander Science Definition team June 2017-Dec 2018.
DegreeYearInstitutionArea
Ph.D.1998University of California,
Santa Barbara, CA
Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology
M.S.1994San Francisco State University,
San Francisco, CA
Cell and Molecular Biology
B.S.1989Cal Poly State University,
San Luis Obispo, CA
Biochemistry

Academic Affiliations

Adjunct Professor, University of Nevada, Reno:


Teaching

Courses:

2019 – Arctic Microbiomes: From Molecules and Microbes to Ecosystems and Health – Under the leadership of the Sentinel North program at Université Laval (Quebec City, Canada), the International PhD School (IPS) is a unique transdisciplinary training program aiming to understand the key role of microbiomes in shaping the structure and functioning of the Arctic, including their impacts on food webs, ecosystem services, and human health. Course blog can be found here – https://sentinellenord.ulaval.ca/en/arctic-microbiomes-field-report

2018 – Microbial Diversity and Evolution (MICR 401/601), UNR, Spring. 3.0 unit lecture and discussion based course offered at the undergraduate and graduate level.

2015 – Microbial Oceanography: Genomes to Biomes, UH. Intensive graduate and Postdoctoral training course for students with interests in marine microbiology and biological oceanography. Sponsored by the Agouron Institute, SOEST, NSF and C-MORE. Honolulu, Hawaii, June.

2010 – Nevada Geobiology Summer Short Course, UNR. NASA Space Grant sponsored intensive field and laboratory course targeting graduate students in science and science education fields. Reno, Nevada July.

2010 – Integrative Biology and Adaptation of Antarctic Marine Organisms. An NSF-sponsored intensive field and laboratory course held at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Director: Prof. D. Manahan, USC, Los Angeles, January.

2008   Integrative Biology and Adaptation of Antarctic Marine Organisms. An NSF-sponsored intensive field and laboratory course held at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Director: Prof. D. Manahan, USC, Los Angeles, January.

2006 – Integrative Biology and Adaptation of Antarctic Marine Organisms. An NSF-sponsored intensive field and laboratory course held at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Director: Prof. D. Manahan, USC, Los Angeles, January.

2004 – Current Topics in Microbial Ecology Seminar, Dept. Environ. Sciences & Health, UNR, Spring.

2001 – Integrative Biology and Adaptation of Antarctic Marine Organisms. An NSF-sponsored intensive field and laboratory course held at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Director: Prof. D. Manahan, USC, Los Angeles, January.

Year ReceivedAward
2019DRI Science Medal
2018Advisor of the Year, Desert Research Institute
2016Co-chair, NASA Europa Lander Science Definition Team
2014Nevada System of Higher Education Regents Researcher Award
20092008 Regents Rising Researcher Award, Nevada Board of Regents
20062006 Peter B. Wagner Medal of Excellence for DRI Scholars in the Early States of Career Development
2005Distinguished Alumni Award, Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies, SFSU

For an up-to-date list of peer-reviewed publications, please visit Alison Murray’s directory page: https://www.dri.edu/directory/alison-murray-research/ 

 

CONTACT

Alison Murray, Ph.D.
Alison.Murray@dri.edu

LAB LOCATION

Desert Research Institute
2215 Raggio Parkway
Reno, NV 89512

DIVISION

Earth & Ecosystem Sciences