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Marine microbiology

Research Leader: Professor David Scanlan

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A major research theme in the group is to use molecular biological techniques to assess the genotype and nutrient status of marine photosynthetic microbes so that the specific factors controlling marine photosynthesis in single cells can be identified. In addition, we are using molecular genetic tools and molecular ecological approaches to investigate the way these organisms perceive and adapt to changes in their environment, and particularly how certain strains have adapted to occupy a specific niche. Thus, we are using fine-scale genetic markers and high throughput sequencing to assess the community structure of photosynthetic microbes over large spatial scales, and coupling this with meta-‘omic approaches to decipher the functional potential and in situ activity of these organisms. We focus on both the role of abiotic (light, nutrients) and biotic (virus infection, protistan grazing) factors in controlling the abundance of these organisms. Moreover, functional identification of genes implicated as playing a specific role in the adaptation of marine (and freshwater) cyanobacteria to their environment is being pursued by mutant construction and analysis. This latter work is being greatly aided by the recent completion of various Prochlorococcus and marine Synechococcus genomes see This is paving the way for detailed comparative genomic (transcriptomic and proteomic) analyses in these organisms and the viruses that infect them.


Work focuses on the following key groups of picophotoautotrophs, organisms which are widespread and abundant in marine ecosystems, and contribute significantly to global primary production. Hence, these are environmentally relevant organisms and all contain cultured counterparts. The cyanobacterial component are also capable of growth at a wide range of irradiance and in waters with low or undetectable levels of inorganic nutrients:

  • Prochlorococcus
  • Synechococcus
  • Picoeukaryotes

Other recent research avenues in the Scanlan lab include projects on i) marine heterotrophic bacterioplankton, particularly focusing on lipid remodelling, degradation of N osmolytes, and phototroph-heterotroph interactions and ii) P acquisition mechanisms in the plant-rhizosphere.

Current Group Members

Dr Branko Rihtman (Postdoctoral Research Assistant), Dr Michaela Mausz (Postdoctoral Research Assistant), Dr Alevtina Mikhaylina (Postdoctoral Research Assistant), Dr Jack Dickenson (Postdoctoral Research Assistant), Dr Andrew Murphy (Postdoctoral Research ssistant), Dr Pedro Cabello-Yeves (Postdoctoral research Assistant), Dr Richard Guillonneau (Postdoctoral Research Assistant), Rhiannon Lyon (3rd Year PhD student), Isabel Aberdeen (3rd Year PhD student), Rebecca Quinn (3rd Year PhD student), Gerald Misol Jr. (2nd Year PhD student), Liv Davies (2nd Year PhD student), Mingyu Li (1st Year PhD student) and Julie Scanlan (Research Technician).

People and projects

Branko Rihtman

Dr Branko Rihtman, Postdoctoral Researcher

Branko's research focuses on viruses of abundant marine cyanobacteria as part of the ERC funded Virfix project.

Michaela Mausz

Dr Michaela Mausz, Postdoctoral Researcher

Michaela is investigating consequences of lipid remodellling in marine cyanobacteria on a NERC funded project with Prof Yin Chen.


Dr Eleonora Silvano, Postdoctoral Researcher

Eleonora's project seeks to determine the role of nutrient input on freshwater lake greenhouse gas emissions and carbon dynamics funded by NERC with PI Prof Yin Chen.

Dr Jack Dickenson, Postdoctoral Researcher

Jack's work involves understanding how cyanophages manipulate photosynthesis during infection as part of the ERC-funded Virfix project. In particular, Jack is interested in how phage redirect photosynthetic electron transport during infection and the associated auxiliary metabolic genes.

Dr Alevtina Mikhaylina, Postdoctoral Researcher

Alevtina's work seeks to understand how cyanophage switch off carbon dioxide fixation during the infection process as part of a Leverhulme Trust funded project.

Andrew Murphy

Dr Andrew Murphy, Postdoctoral Researcher

Andrew is investigating the relationship between phage virulence and host growth rates in model photosynthetic and heterotrophic bacteria funded by the ERC Virfix project.

Pedro Cabello Yeves

Dr Pedro Cabello Yeves, Postdoctoral Researcher

Pedro is seeking to understand how ∝-cyanobacteria with form 1A RuBisCO and ∝-carboxysomes globally dominate aquatic habitats.

Isabel Aberdeen, Final Year PhD Student

Izzy is supervised by Prof Yin Chen and Prof Dave Scanlan investigating the role of lipid remodelling in pathogenic bacteria of the genera Pseudomonas and Burkholderia.


Rhiannon Lyon, Final Year PhD Student

Rhiannon is supervised by Prof Yin Chen, Dr Andy Millard and Prof Dave Scanlan and is investigating the effect of lipid remodelling on phage infection dynamics in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Gerald Misol

Gerald Misol Jr., Second Year PhD Student

Gerald is funded by the ERC Vrifix project and is investigating how environmental factors control auxiliary metabolic gene (AMG) carriage in marine cyanophage, as well as developing cyanophage genetics and seeking to understand cyanophage resistance mechanisms of the Synechococcus host.

Liv Davies

Liv Davies, 2nd Year PhD Student

Liv is interested in elucidating mechanisms of buoyancy in marine picocyanobacteria and is funded by a NERC CENTA PhD studentship.

Mingyu Li

Mingyu Li, 2nd Year PhD Student

Mingyu is interested in deciphering how membrane lipids are modified by phage as well as understanding how bacteria utilise lipid backbone components for growth.

Shengwei Liu, 1st Year PhD Student

Shengwei is interested in understanding how bacterial lipids are degraded in the environment.

Julie Scanlan, Research Technician

Julie is the curator of the cyanobacterial culture collection at Warwick and is currently constructing cyanobacterial mutants to elucidate the effects of lipid remodelling on cell physiology.

Research Facilities

Excellent cyanobacterial and eukaryotic phytoplankton culturing facilities including walk-in temperature controlled growth rooms, supported by department-run media preparation service.

In House MiSeq sequencing and real-time qPCR facilities, high-speed BD Influx flow cytometric sorting capacity, LC-MS facility for metabolite detection, state-of-the-art proteomics facility, and within lab access to molecular biology, biochemistry, analytical flow cytometry and photophysiological (PhytoPAM, light array) facilities.

Equipment Booking

Booking link for the following equipment : amaZon, microscopes, Cytoflex, Akta, Plate readers and windows computer.


Dr Gary Bending (University of Warwick, SLS) Phosphorus acquisition in the soil plant-rhizosphere

Dr Claudia Blindauer (University of Warwick, Chemistry) Marine cyanobacterial metalloproteomics

Dr Yin Chen (University of Warwick, SLS) Marine heterotroph phospholipid recycling and N osmolyte degradation

Professor Martha Clokie (University of Leicester, UK) Marine cyanophage

Dr Christophe Corre (University of Warwick, SLS/Chemistry) Structure and function of cyanobacterial metabolites

Dr Laurence Garczarek (Station Biologique, Roscoff, France) Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus molecular ecology and genomics

Dr Mikal Heldal (University of Bergen, Norway) Elemental composition of marine picocyanobacteria

Prof Wolfgang Hess (University of Freiburg, Germany) Marine picocyanobacteria genomics and small RNAs

Professor Wei Huang (University of Oxford) Raman spectroscopy

Dr Martin Ostrowski (Macquarie University, Sydney) Synechococcus metagenomics/biodiversity

Dr Frederic Partensky (Station Biologique, Roscoff, France) Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus molecular ecology and genomics

Prof Anton Post (Florida Atlantic University, USA) Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus molecular ecology and genomics

Dr Christophe Six (Station Biologique, Roscoff, France) Marine cyanobacterial lipids

Prof Paul Taylor University of Leeds - The Evolutionary Origins of Chemical Messengers in Humans

Dr Osvaldo Ulloa (Universidad de Concepción, Chile) Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus community structure in oxygen minimum zones

Dr Daniel Vaulot (Station Biologique, Roscoff, France) Picoeukaryote biodiversity and genomics

Prof Liz Wellington (University of Warwick, SLS) Metaproteomics of phosphorus acquisition in the soil plant-rhizosphere

Dr Mike Zubkov (Scottish Association for Marine Sciences, Oban, Scotland) Flow sorting of photosynthetic microbes/Mixotrophy/Grazing/P acquisition.


Prospective Students and postdoctoral researchers

Students interested in pursuing graduate research with Prof. Scanlan are encouraged to contact him directly by email ( For more information about graduate programs at the University of Warwick see

Prospective postdoctoral researchers with interests in the field of marine microbiology, particularly photosynthetic microorganisms are encouraged to contact Prof. Scanlan directly by email (address above) to discuss potential research projects and funding opportunities.