Karyn Rogers


June 2006 - December 2007

Karyn Rogers became a DOEI sponsored Postdoctoral Scholar in October of 2006. A summary of her research interests, current research work, and educational experience is detailed below.

I came to WHOI in September of 2006 as a DOEI Postdoctoral Scholar. My sponsors are Dr. Jeff Seewald of Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry and Dr. Stefan Sievert of the Biology Department. I study the interactions between microorganisms and their geochemical environment and I am particularly interested in how energy availability influences the kinds of organisms that inhabit various extreme environments. Organisms that use chemical energy to drive their life cycle are chemosynthetic (as opposed to photosynthetic, like plants). Humans are chemosynthesizers, but with a wide-ranging diet, including plants and animals. Chemosynthetic microorganisms that inhabit extreme environments often have a much more limited diet, sometimes relying on only a few chemical compounds for energy, thus they can be very sensitive to their geochemical surroundings. My research focuses on how energy availability influences diversity, productivity and competition among microorganisms in extreme environments.

At WHOI I am focusing on organisms that use organic compounds in their metabolism. Currently I am working on natural gas wells in southeastern Oklahoma in order to better understand how subsurface microbial communities can affect the makeup and isotopic composition of natural gas deposits. Syntrophic relationships between heterotrophic bacteria and methanogenic archaea may be responsible for organic acid and methane production in these wells.Furthermore, we are attempting to identify novel metabolisms in the resident archaea, particularly focusing on the production of C2+ alkanes from short chain carboxylic acids.Additionally, I will be participating in Stefan Sievert’s research cruise to the East Pacific Rise next winter where I will be identifying specific heterotrophic metabolic pathways among the thermophilic microorganisms found in these deep sea vents.

For my Ph.D. research I worked on the shallow marine hydrothermal system of Vulcano Island, Italy. Vulcano is one of seven volcanically active islands in the Aeolian archipelago just off the north coast of Sicily. There, I explored the geochemical, energetic and microbial diversity of the hydrothermal vents, seeps and wells of the island. I have also worked on the nearby island of Panarea where similar investigations are currently underway. In addition to my work with scientists at WHOI, I am also collaborating with colleagues from the University of Colorado (Boulder), University of Missouri (Columbia), University of Vermont, and UMass (Amherst) on various projects including exploring terrestrial analogs for fumarole environments on Mars; the role of organic sulfur compounds in deep sea vent biogeochemical cycles; primary productivity in sulfur-free karst caves; geochemical modeling of energy availability for thermophilic iron reducers under various geochemical conditions; and the application of artificial neural networks to better define how geochemical niches affect microbial community structure.

Prior to coming to WHOI, I received my Ph.D. (2006) from the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, where I worked with Jan Amend. Previously, I received an M.S. (2001) from Stanford University, where I studied petroleum migration and mineral diagenesis in Western Greenland with Dennis Bird; and I received my A.B. (1996) from Harvard University, where I first was introduced to geochemistry by Dick Holland.In January of 2008, I will join the faculty in the Geology Department at the University of Missouri - Columbia, where I am currently building a new biogeochemistry laboratory along with my husband, Mitch Schulte.