Molecular Microbial Ecology and Genomics Laboratory

Lab Description

The Molecular Microbial Ecology and Genomics Lab is fully equipped for state-of-the-art molecular biology, genomics, and bioinformatics research including capabilities to facilitate high-throughput molecular biology work (multichannel pipettors, 96-sample gel apparatus, vacuum apparatus for 96-well plate mini-prepping, purifications), cultivation and recombinant DNA research.

The laboratory is fully equipped with the instrumentation, supporting equipment and computational resources required for closing and annotating genome sequences.

The lab also has thermal cyclers, an ABI 3130 Avant Genetic Analyzer (for DNA sequencing and fragment analysis), refrigerated and room temperature microfuges, a Nanodrop spectrophotometer, hybridization oven, several gel electrophoresis boxes, a DGGE unit, and UV transilluminator and digital imaging system (Kodak). The lab is set up to perform DNA microarray hybridizations, including a microfluidic hybridization station, staining dishes and racks for array manipulations, hybridization cassettes, water baths, hot blocks, centrifuge with microtiter plate spinning capacity, and an Axon 4000B Scanner. A suite of microbial growth rooms (-10°C and 4°C), shaking and stationary incubators in addition to storage facilities including -80oC and -20°C freezers, and 4°C chromatography refrigerator are also available. A Milli-Q water system is in place providing RNAse-free water. Expected completion of a new 4500 sq.ft. wing will be added to the Maxey Building at DRI to accommodate a new laboratory being custom-designed for Murray’s group. The primary lab will be 660 sq ft. with three shared equipment rooms totaling ~300 sq ft.

Adjacent shared-use equipment include a Varian spectrophotometer, Molecular Dynamics 96-well spectrometer and a 96-well fluorometer, Chef DR-II pulsed field gel electrophoresis (BioRad), laminar flow hood, autoclave, and Olympus BX60 Epifluorescence Microscope with MTI CCD camera and image-Pro Plus image analysis software. In Summer 2007 a new Confocal Microscope will be acquired with research funds from a collaborative NSF-MRI grant.

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.

Molecular Microbial Ecology and Genomics Laboratory Research Team from left Lucas Bishop, Dr. Zoe Harrold, Dr. Alison Murray and Eric Lundin pose in the molecular microbial ecology lab at the Desert Research Institute, in Reno, Nev. Photo by Cathleen Allison/Nevada Momentum

From left, Lucas Bishop, Dr. Zoe Harrold, Dr. Alison Murray and Eric Lundin pose in the molecular microbial ecology lab at the Desert Research Institute, in Reno, Nev., on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. Photo by Cathleen Allison/Nevada Momentum


Dr. Alison Murray
Research Professor
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


Nathan Ernster
Graduate Student,
Cell and Molecular Biology Graduate Program, UNR

Eric Lundin
Research Technician
Biotechnology BS./M.S., 2020, UNR

Mary Higham
Research Technician

Carla Gimpel
Fulbright Graduate Fellow
Marine Biology, Ph.D. Univ. Hawaii

Post-doctoral researchers

  • Dr. Pamela Santibanez, Paleoclimate and microbiology of ice. (2018-2019) [presently at INACH]
  • 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)

  • Nicole Avalon (Department of Chemistry, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida)
  • 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) 

Undergraduate students

  • Miranda Seixas (Geobiology, Middlebury College, VT, B.A. 2020,)
  • 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)



Alison Murray, Ph.D.
Lab Director


Desert Research Institute
2215 Raggio Parkway
Reno, NV 89512


Earth & Ecosystem Sciences