Alison Elizabeth MurrayMolecular, ecological, microbiological 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
- Microbial oceanography
- Marine invertebrate symbiosis
- Astrobiology, life detection methods
|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
Teaching & Affiliations
Adjunct Professor, University of Nevada, Reno:
- Molecular Microbiology and Immunology Undergraduate Program, College of Science
- Biology Department
- Cell and Molecular Biology Graduate Program
- Environmental Sciences Graduate Program
- Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
- Molecular Biosciences
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.
|2019||DRI Science Medal|
|2018||Advisor of the Year, Desert Research Institute|
|2016||Co-chair, NASA Europa Lander Science Definition Team|
|2014||Nevada System of Higher Education Regents Researcher Award|
|2009||2008 Regents Rising Researcher Award, Nevada Board of Regents|
|2006||2006 Peter B. Wagner Medal of Excellence for DRI Scholars in the Early States of Career Development|
|2005||Distinguished 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/
New study reveals key information about the microbiome of an important anticancer compound-producing Antarctic marine invertebrate. DRI News Release, June 25, 2020.
International Consortium of Scientists Propose New Naming System for Uncultivated Bacteria and Archaea. DRI News Release, June 8, 2020.
Featured DRI and NASA scientist Alison Murray. DRI Instagram feature, July 29, 2020.
- 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.
Dr. Murray leads a group studying the molecular biological (DNA/RNA/Protein) make‐up and biogeochemical impacts of microorganisms living in oceanic and terrestrial polar environments, in association with marine invertebrates, in alpine snowpack, polar and desert hypersaline systems and even the deep sea. Common themes across this research are studying the diversity of life using gene, (meta)genome and metatranscriptome approaches, and studying the biogeochemical processes occurring and capabilities required for survival under varying conditions and environmental extremes.
Dr. Alison Murray
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
Department of Chemistry, University of South Florida
Cell and Molecular Biology Graduate Program, UNR
Biotechnology BS./M.S., 2020, UNR
Fulbright Graduate Fellow
Marine Biology, Ph.D. Univ. Hawaii
- Dr. Pamela Santibanez, Paleoclimate and microbiology of ice. (2018-2019) [presently at INACH]
- Dr. Zoe Harrold, Geochemistry, Geomicrobiology and Astrobiology (2017-2019) [Presently an independent contractor and science writer, Reno, NV]
- Dr. Joseph Grzymski (2004-2007) [Presently Research Professor at DRI]
- Dr. Christian Riesenfeld (2006-2009) [Presently teaching in Rhode Island]
Graduate students (at DRI)
- Lucas Bishop (Biotechnology UNR, B.S./M.S., May, 2019) [Presently a research technician, Schloss Lab, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI]
- Eric Lundin (Biotechnology UNR, B.S./M.S., May, 2020) [Presently a research technician, Murray Lab, DRI]
- Dr. Paula Matheus Carnevali (Molecular Biosciences, Biochemistry, UNR, Ph.D., 2015) [Presently a Postdoctoral Fellow, Geomicrobiology and Genomics, Banfield Lab, University of California, Berkeley, CA]
- Emanuele Kuhn, (Fulbright Graduate Fellow, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UNR, Ph.D., 2014)
- Gareth Trubl, (Environmental Science, UNR, M.S., 2013)• Protima Wagh (Biotechnology Program,UNR, B.S./M.S. 2011)
- Alexandra Kameda (Environmental Sciences and Health, M.S., UNR, Dec. 2006)
- Annika Mosier (Environmental Resource Sciences, M.S., UNR, Dec. 2004)
Graduate students (Committee memberships)
- Dr. Luoth Chou (Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois, Ph.D., 2019)
- Dr. Nic Beres (Atmospheric Sciences, UNR, Ph.D., 2019)
- Kristen Myers, (Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Brown University/Marine Biology Laboratory, M.S., 2009)
- 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)
- Miranda Seixas (Geobiology, Middlebury College, VT, B.A. 2020)
- Eric Lundin (Biotechnology, B.S./M.S. UNR, 2020)
- Lucas Bishop (Biotechnology, UNR, B.S./M.S., 2019)
- Alena Lee (Biotechnology, UNR, B.S./M.S., 2019)
- Mikaela Chaney (Microbiology, Cal Poly State Univ., San Luis Obispo, CA, B.S., 2016) [Presently a laboratory technician, The Wine Group, Soledad CA]
- Samantha Mayer (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UNR. B.S., 2015)
- Olivia Rassuchine, (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UNR, B.S. 2013)
- Mike Bleyberg, (Biology, B.A., UNR, 2011)
- Robert Read, (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UNR, B.S., 2010)
- Doug Yao, (Nursing, UNR, 2009)
- Laura Kreidberg (Astronomy and Physics, Yale, 2009)
- Charlotte Tyler, (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UNR, B.S., 2009)
- Protima Wagh, (Biotechnolgy (BS/MS program, UNR, 2007)
- Alex Dussaq, (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UNR, 2008)
- Scott Lucas, (Biology, UNR, B.A., 2006)
- Devin Currie, (Biology, UM Amherst, 2005)
- Jason Michaels, (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology UNR, 2003)
- Alexandra Kameda (Biology, UNR, 2002)
High School students:
- Alex Dussaq (Summer 2006)
- Kaitlyn Shakleton (Summer 2005)
- David Shakleton (Summer 2003)
- Vivian Peng
- Gabriel Maalouf
- Laura Zirrelli
- Becky Cooper
- Brandon Carter
Postgraduate training interns:
- Eric Lundin
- Nathan Ernster
- Michael Blane
- Michael Gary
- Olivia Rasssuchine
- Robert Read
- Protima Wagh