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.
Degree Year Institution Area
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 Award
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

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Chou, L, F Kenig, AE Murray, CH Fritsen, PT Doran. Environmental metabolomics and the effect of legacy from previous environmental conditions: The brine of Lake Vida, East Antarctica. In Review, Organic Geochem.

Matheus Carnevali, P, C Herbold, K Hand, AE Murray. Distinct microbial assemblage structure and archaeal diversity in two arctic thermokarst lake sediments differing in methane sources. In review, Frontiers in Microbiology.

Harrold, ZR, EM Hausrath, AH Garcia, AE Murray, O Tschauner, J Raymond, S Huang. 2018. Bioavailability of mineral-bound iron to a snow algae-bacteria co-culture and implications for albedo-altering snow algae blooms. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 10.1128/AEM.02322-17

Gutt, J, E Isla, N Bertler, GE Bodeker, TJ Bracegirdle, RD Cavanagh, JC Comiso, P Convey, V Cummings, R De Conto, D DeMaster, G di Prisco, F d’Ovidio, HJ Griffiths, AL Khan, J López-Martínez, AE Murray, UN Nielsen, S Ott, A Post, Y Ropert-Coudert, T Saucède, R Scherer, S Schiaparelli, IR Schloss, CR Smity, J Stefels, C Stevens, JM Strungnell, S Trimborn, C Verde, E Verleyen, DH Wall, NG Wilson, JC Xavier. 2017. Cross-disciplinarity in the advance of Antarctic ecosystem research. Marine Genomics. DOI:10.1016/j.margen.2017.09.006.

Russell, MJ, AE Murray, KP Hand. 2018. The possible emergence of life and differentiation of a shallow biosphere on irradiated icy worlds: The example of Europa. Astrobiology, 17(12):1265-1273. DOI: 10.1089/ast2016.1600. [*Cover of issue; January 2018]

Proemse, BC, AE Murray, C Schallenberg, B McKiernan, B Glazer, SE Young, NE Ostrom, A Bowie, ME Wieser, F Kenig, PT Doran, R Edwards. 2017. Iron cycling in the anoxic cryo-ecosystem of Antarctic Lake Vida. Biogeochemistry, 134(1): 17-27.  doi:10.1007/s10533-017-0346-5.

Reiss, CS, A Cossio, JA Santora, K Dietrich, AE Murray, BG Mitchell, J Walsh, El Weiss, C Gimpel, CD Jones, GM Watters. 2017. Overwinter habitat selectin by Antarctic krill under varying sea ice conditions: implications for top predators and fishery management. Mar Ecol Prog Ser, 568:1-16. DOI:10.3354/meps12099.

Shen, Y., R Benner, AE Murray, C Gimpel, G Mitchell, EL Weiss, C Reiss. 2017.  Bioavailable dissolved organic matter and biological hot spots during austral winter in Antarctic waters. J Geophysical Res Oceans. 121. DOI:10.1002/2016JC012301.

Murray, AE, FR Rack, R Zook, MJM Williams, ML Higham, M Broe, RS Kaufmann, M Daly. 2016. Microbiome composition and diversity of the ice-dwelling sea anemone, Edwardsiella andrillae. Integrative and Comparative Biology. 56(4):542-555. DOI:10.1093/icb/icw095

Kenig, F, L Chou, CP McKay, WA Jackson, P Doran, AE Murray, CH Fritsen. 2016. Perchlorate and volatiles of the brine of Lake Vida (Antarctica): Implication for the in-situ analysis of Mars sediments. J Geophysical Res Planets. 121(7):1190-1203. DOI:10.1002/2015JE004964.

Ostrom, N, AE Murray, H Gandhi, G Trubl. 2016. The enigmatic nitrogen biogeochemistry of the cryoecosystem of Lake Vida, Victoria Valley, Antarctica. Geobiology. 14(6):575-587. 10.1111/gbi.12190.

Cawley, KM, AE Murray, PT Doran, A Stubbins, H Chen, PG Hatcher, F Kenig, DM McKnight. 2016. Characterization of dissolved organic material in the interstitial brine of Lake Vida, Antarctica. Geochim Cosmichim Acta, 183:63-78.  DOI:10.1016/j.gca.2016.03.023.

Helly, JJ, M Vernet, AE Murray, G Stephenson Jr. 2015. Characteristics of the meltwater field from a large iceberg using d18O. J Geophysical Res, 120(3):2259-2269.  doi:10.1002/2015JC010772

Dugan, HA, PT Doran, B Wagner, F Kenig, CH Fritsen, SA Arcone, E Kuhn, NE Ostrom, J Warnock, AE Murray. 2015. Stratigraphy of Lake Vida, Antarctica: Hydrologic implications of 27 m of ice. The Cryosphere, 9:439-450. doi:10.5194/tc-9-439-2015

Matheus Carnevali, P, M Rohrssen, MR Williams, AB Michaud, H Adams, D Berisford, GD Love, JC Priscu, O Rassuchine, KP Hand, AE Murray. 2015. Methane sources in arctic thermokarst lake sediments on the North Slope of Alaska. Geobiology, 13(2):181-197. doi: 10.1111/gbi.12124

Kuhn, E, AS Ichimura, V Peng, CH Fritsen, G Trubl, PT Doran, AE Murray. 2014. Brine assemblages of ultra-small microbial cells within the ice cover of Lake Vida, Antarctica. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 80(12): 3687–3698. doi:10.1128/AEM.00276-14.

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 -13oC in the brine of an ice-sealed Antarctic Lake. Proc Natl Acad Sci, 109 (50) 20626-20631. doi:10.1073/pnas.1208607109. *Ranked top 10 PNAS articles in 2012.

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, 109 (43) 17633-17638. doi:10.1073/pnas.120816109.

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.

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. Challenges to the Future Conservation of the Antarctic. Science 337(6091): 158-159.

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.

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.

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. 

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

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

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.

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, J 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.

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

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, 71 (11):1812-1818,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, 6:532-541.

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.

Nassar, S., GL Vert, M. Nicolescu, AE Murray. 2007. Multisequence assembly for prokaryotes and eukaryotes using fuzzy logic. Intl J Information Technology and Intelligent Computing. 2(4).

Passow U, CL 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, CL De La Rocha, H-P 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. DOI 10.3354/ame01139.

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, JT, C. Lovejoy and AE 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, AE Muray, JA Klappenbach, V Stewart, and JM Tiedje. 2007. Respiratory nitrate ammonification by Shewanella oneidensis MR-1. J Bacteriol, 189: 656-662.

Mosier, AC, AE Murray, and CH Fritsen. 2007. Microbiota within the perennial ice cover of Lake Vida, Antarctica. FEMS Microb Ecol, 59(2):274-288.

Martin, D, RM Ross, LB Quetin, and AE Murray. 2006. Molecular approach (PCR-DGGE) to diet analysis in young Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba Dana). Mar Ecol Prog Ser, 319:155-165.

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

Peck, LS, MS Clark, A Clarke, CS Cockell, P Convey, HW, Detrich III, KPP Fraser, IA Johnston, BA Methe, A.E. Murray, K Römisch, and AD Rogers 2005. Genomics: Applications to Antarctic Ecosystems. Polar Biol, 28(5):351-365.

Clark, MS, A Clarke, CS Cockell, P Convey, HW Dietrich III, KPP Fraser, IA Johnston, BA Methe, AE Murray, LS Peck, K Roemisch, and AD Rogers. 2004. Antarctic Genomics. Comp Func Genom, 5:230-238.

Beliaev, AS, DK Thompson, T Khare, H Lim, CC Brandt, G Li, AE Murray, JF Heidelberg, CS Giometti, J YatesIII, KH Nealson, JM Tiedje, and J Zhou. 2002. Gene and protein expression profiles of Shewanella oneidensis during anaerobic growth with different electron acceptors. OMICS 6:39-60.

Murray, AE, DL Lies, G Li, KH Nealson, J Zhou, and JM Tiedje. 2001. DNA:DNA hybridization to microarrays reveals gene-specific differences between closely related microbial genomes. Proc Natl Acad Sci, 98 (17):9853-9858.

Passow, U, RF Shipe, AE Murray, D Pak, MA Brzezinski, AL Alldredge. 2001. The origin of transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) and their role in the sedimentation of particulate matter. Continental Shelf Res. 21(4): 327-346.

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

Murray, AE, KY Wu, C Moyer, DM Karl and EF Delong. 1999. Evidence for circumpolar distribution of planktonic archaea in the Southern hemisphere. Aquat Microbial Ecol, 18:263-273.

Murray, AE, CM Preston, R Massana, LT Taylor, A Blakis, and EF DeLong 1998. Seasonal and spatial variability in coastal Antarctic bacterioplankton assemblages. Appl Environ Microbiol, 64(7): 2585-2595.

Massana, R, LT Taylor, AE Murray, KY Wu, WH Jeffrey and EF DeLong (1998). Distribution of marine planktonic archaea in the Gerlache Strait, Antarctic Peninsula, during early spring. Limnol Oceanorg, 43(4):607-617.

DeLong, EF, LL King, RM Massana, H Cittone, AE Murray, C Schleper, and SG Wakeham. 1998. Cyclic and acyclic dibiphytanyl ether lipids in marine psychrophilic crenarchaeotes: evolutionary and ecological implications. Appl Environ Microbiol, 64(3):1133-1138

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

Murray, AE, JT 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.

Molecular Microbial Ecology and Genomics Laboratory

Fully equipped for molecular biology, genomics, and bioinformatics research.

Research Projects

Significant resources and capabilities in microbiology research include areas of molecular biology, genomics, and astrobiology.


Allison Murray, Ph.D.


Desert Research Institute
2215 Raggio Parkway
Reno, NV 89512


Earth & Ecosystem Sciences