Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Molecular Microbial Ecology
People - Worden Lab

Worden, Ph.D.
Sudek, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator
curriculum vitae
Research Scientist


Magdalena Gutowska Rachel Harbeitner

Amy Zimmerman
Bachy, Ph.D.
Chang Jae
Choi, Ph.D.
Gutowska, Ph.D.
Alexander "AJ" Limardo Camille
Wilken, Ph.D.
Zimmerman, Ph.D.
Chancellor’s Fellow
Graduate Student
Fulbright Scholar

Former Lab Members

Jian GuoJian Guo – Post-doctoral Researcher, 2013 – 2015
Dr. Guo joined the lab after her Ph.D. at University of British Columbia on trace metals and phytoplankton physiology. Jian has an extensive history in phytoplankton culturing – having curated a collection in China for several years before pursuing her Ph.D. in Canada. Jian is co-first author on a key paper from the lab showing that many algae have riboswitches and that taxa thought to require an external source of vitamin B1 can grow on other compounds as well (McRose, Guo, Monier et al. ISME J 2014). Jian’s experiments on phytoplankton transitions to nutrient limitation include transcriptomic and proteomic responses to conditions that are predicted under future climate change scenarios. This manuscript is currently in preparation. Jian left the lab in early 2015 to rejoin her family in Canada and will continue to collaborate with the lab in the lab of Professor Manny Ares at UCSC starting in Fall 2015.


Zena Jensvold – Undergraduate Summer Intern 2014
Zena came to under the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program for the summer after her  sophomore year at the University of Oregon. Zena’s project involved testing responses of the smallest free living eukaryote known to growth under low phosphate and nitrogen conditions, as well as investigating cellular quotas of C, N and P. Zena returned in autumn 2014 to participate in the MBARI CANON cruises.
Ashely Maitland – Undergraduate Summer Intern 2014
Ashley joined the MBARI intern program for the summer following her junior year at the University of Arizona where she has worked in the lab of Matt Sullivan. Ashley has been investigated the growth of Micromonas, a prasinophyte green alga that is broadly distributed in the world oceans – and its response to different nutrient conditions.
Marijke (Jeltje) van Baren – Bioinformatician, 2010 – 2014
Dr. van Baren joined the lab after working in human, mouse, and fly genome annotation. Here she developed an evidence based set of criteria for creating and selecting best gene models and developed new model sets for two complete eukaryotic genomes. She also contributed to RNA-seq analyses in the lab and a variety of other projects. Jeltje is now working as an independent bioinformatics contractor.
Melinda P. Simmons – Graduate Student, UCSC 2007 – 2014
Melinda came to the lab after performing an MS at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a position at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation as part of the Marine Microbiology Initiative. Melinda’s research here focused on the ecology of picoeukaryotes with a focus on the widespread marine green alga Micromonas. Melinda is a co-author on the 2009 Science genome paper and one of her primary dissertation publications came out in Molecular Biology and Evolution in 2015. The latter shows that there is a polar-adapted Micromonas species with near perfect nucleotide identity present in the Arctic and Antarctic, but not in surface waters in lower latitudes. In collaboration with Post-doc Charles Bachy we also showed that this Micromonas - or its DNA - is present in the North Atlantic Deep Water, providing a connection between populations at the two poles. Melinda defended her Ph.D. thesis, entitled “Mamiellophyceae: phylogenetic and biogeographic insights” in June 2014.

Darcy McRose – Summer Intern 2008, MS Student Stanford University 2009 - 2011, Research Assistant until Aug 2012
Darcy spent the summer after her senior year at Stanford University working on growth and photosynthetic activity of axenic strains from the different Micromonas clades as well as Ostreococcus. This beautiful piece of research involved a huge amount of work – for which she spent just about every day of the summer in the lab. Darcy then returned to the lab for her Master's research and worked as a Research Assistant after the completion of her MS. Darcy's research focus was on comparative genomics of vitamin genes in marine phytoplankton and vitamin physiology in prasinophytes. Darcy joined the lab of Prof. Bess Ward at Princeton University as a Ph.D. Candidate in fall 2012.
Adam Monier – Post-doctoral Researcher, 2009 – 2012
Dr. Adam Monier joined the lab after his Ph.D. on HGT and marine eukaryotic viruses. Adam's research in the lab focused on analysis of eukaryotic metagenomes, targeted metagenomes from flow sorted populations, HGT and on eukaryotic viral genomes. Adam is the lead author on the first genome sequence of the marine prasinophyte Bathycoccus, sequenced directly from nature using targeted metagenomics; he is also first / co-first author on two ISME J articles, and participated in several other publications. Adam moved to perform a second post-doc at the University of Laval in theTakuvik International Lab in Canada where he used omic approaches to identify metabolic responses of marine microbial communities to the changing Arctic. He then became a Royal Fellow in the UK.
Emily Reistetter – Research Technician II, 2010 – 2012
Emily joined the lab after completing her MS at University of Washington in the lab of Prof. Gabrielle Rocap. Emily performed a series of important chemostat experiments with talent and persistence in a technically challenging system. The experiments address the interaction between CO2 concentration and nutrient limitation on phytoplankton growth. The experiments/samples include complete transcriptome and proteome analyses and the first results were published in PNAS (Duanmu, Bachy et al.) in 2014. Emily is a coauthor on multiple other publications / manuscripts from the lab. Emily is now working in the real estate business in the Bay area and still occassionally consults for the lab!
Yun-Chi Lin – Visiting Graduate Student, UCSC/MBARI 2010-2011
Yun-Chi came to the lab on a fellowship from the Taiwan National Science Council to work on her Ph.D. studies on uncultured stramenopiles (MAST). She published one first author paper from this work in Environmental Microbiology; she also performed qPCR, constructed and analyzed clone libraries for a study of phytoplankton in a frontal system. She received her degree from the National Taiwan Ocean University in 2013. We were all sad to see Yun-Chi leave at the end of her 1 year stay! After her Ph.D. Dr. Lin became a post-doc at the Institute of Marine Biology, National Taiwan Ocean University.
Tracy Campbell – Research Technician I, 2010 – 2012
Tracy joined the lab after completing her MS at the University of Hawaii in the lab of Mike Rappe with an interest of gaining some additional research experience before finding and starting a Ph.D. Program. Tracy contributed data support to Lin et al. 2012, a publication addressing the distribution of Marine Stramenopiles (MAST) in marine systems and enhanced our 16S rRNA alignment database. Tracy started research on invertebrates in fall 2012 at MLML.
Shuang Chun "Jeremy" Yan – Post-doctoral Researcher, 2011 – 2012
Jeremy earned his PhD in plant pathology and physiology from Virginia Tech where he studied interactions between plants and bacteria, virulence mechanisms and host range evolution of the plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae. At MBARI Jeremy worked on algal physiology in response to changing light fields and temperature as well as host defense systems. Jeremy moved to Harvard University to research novel therapeutics as alternatives to antibiotics in the wake of increasing challenges from multi-drug resistant organisms. Jeremy is a co-author on our Vitamin B1 research (e.g. ISME J 2014).
Hang Yu – Summer Intern and Research Assistant, June – Dec 2010
Hank came to the lab after completing his undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia. Hank worked on characterizing new phytoplankton isolates and performed a series of experiments for complete transcriptome analysis through RNA-seq on a range of prasinophyte species. Hank started his Ph.D. at Caltech in the lab of Victoria Orphan in autumn 2011.
Marie Cuvelier Marie L. Cuvelier – Ph.D. Student, RSMAS University of Miami / MBARI, Fall 2004 – 2010
Marie completed her dissertation entitled "New insights into the diversity, distribution and ecophysiology of marine picoeukaryotes" in 2010. In addition to co-authoring several papers in the lab, Marie is first author on a publication on a novel protistan group in Environmental Microbiology as well as one on the importance of picoplanktonic prymnesiophytes to oceanic systems in PNAS. Marie also performed a series of photophysiology experiments on prasinophytes. During her Ph.D. Marie participated in many cruises and was a wonderful team player. Marie went on for a post-doc in the lab of Rebecca Vega Thurber, Florida International University.
Elif Demir Elif Demir – Post-doctoral Researcher, 2007 – 2010
Elif performed her Ph.D. at the University of Delaware in the laboratory of David Hutchins where she worked on harmful algal species. Elif joined the lab here in autumn 2007 and worked on qPCR primer-probe development for enumerating different pico-prasinophytes from which she is first author on publication in the ISME Journal. Elif participated in several North Pacific cruises as well as one in the Florida Straits and played an active role in mentoring undergraduates who came to the lab. At the end of her 3 year post-doc here, Elif moved to work on the Environmental Sample Processor in the Scholin lab group at MBARI.
Heather Wilcox Alyssa Gehman – Research Technician, 2008 – 2010
Alyssa performed a master's at Western Washington University on the rocky intertidal. She joined the lab as a research technician hoping to gain a couple more years research experience before pursuing a Ph.D. in parasitology. Here she ran and analyzed flow cytometry data, performed sorting experiments, participated in cruises and managed the lab! She co-authored two articles from the lab on the dynamics of small phytoplankton. Alyssa has a long standing interest in parasitology and started a Ph.D. at the University of Georgia in Fall 2010 on that topic and where she has been making waves with creative funding mechanisms.
Heather Wilcox Heather M. Wilcox – Senior Research Technician, 2007 – 2009
Heather moved from the field of immunology to join the lab in 2007. She has been responsible for developing our metagenomic extraction procedures and managing the ever growing axenic culture collection in addition to many other activities in the lab, including master troubleshooter for RNA work. Here she co-authored publications in PNAS and PLoS Biology. Prior to joining the lab, Heather played important roles in brief episodes setting up the lab at Miami, and helping with the move/set up at MBARI. Heather moved back to the 'human' world to have direct involvement with patient care.
Harriet AlexanderHarriet Alexander – Undergraduate Summer Intern 2008, Honors Thesis Student 2009 – 2010
Harriet quickly mastered the high speed flow sorter and explored the cell cycles of Micromonas and Ostreococcus, as well as helping all sorts of folks out by running their samples. She then developed her own project. After completing her Biology and Math double major at Wellesley College and honors thesis in the Worden Lab, Harriet went on for a Ph.D. in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program.
Julie VassarJulie Vassar – Undergraduate Summer Intern 2009
Julie came to the lab for the MBARI summer internship after her sophomore summer at Smith College. Julie learned to love PCR - always upbeat and cheery, not to mention ready to run another PCR and Gel ASAP!
Rory Welsh Rory M. Welsh – Research Technician, RSMAS University of Miami / MBARI, 2005 – 2008
Rory joined the lab in fall of 2005 and quickly became the fall back guy – maintaining the axenic cultures, mastering the high speed flow sorter and participating in a large number of research expeditions – taking him to the tropical Atlantic, South Pacific and the North Pacific. He is well known for his ‘heart of gold’ and for being a patient teacher. He moved with the lab from UM to MBARI in 2007 and stayed on for a year to get the lab up and running in its new home. Rory co-authored papers in PNAS, Current Biology and Environmental Microbiology while in the lab. Rory went on for a Ph.D. in the lab of Rebecca Vega Thurber, Florida International University.
Sarah McDonald Sarah McDonald, Ph.D. – Post-Doctoral Associate, RSMAS University of Miami / MBARI, 2007 – 2008
Sarah came to the lab in January of 2007 from the Stazione Zoologica in Napoli, Italy after finishing her Ph.D. in which she explored natural eukaryotic phytoplankton populations using genetic markers. In Miami she entered into the field of genomics and designed experiments to explore Micromonas nitrogen and carbon utilization via genome-informed gene expression. She continued with this project after the move to MBARI - resulting in a publication in Molecular Biology and Evolution and co-authorship on the Micromonas genome paper (Science 2009). Sarah went on for a position at SRI International.
Alejandra OrtizAlejandra Ortiz – Undergraduate Summer Intern, 2008 (2007 & 2006!)
Aleja first joined the lab (while still at University of Miami) the summer after her senior year in high school and then left for Wellesley College. She took on an 18S rRNA gene sequence analysis using consed in her first summer. Aleja returned to the lab for two more summers (one more at UM and one at MBARI) - and orchestrated intense culture based studies on algal response to high light and UV exposure. She is a co-author on several publications / manuscripts. After completing her degree at Wellesley College Aleja went on for a Ph.D. in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program. In May 2015 she accepted a position as Assistant Professor which she will start after completing her post-doc.
Gus EngmanAugustin Engman – Undergraduate Researcher, University of Miami / MBARI, 2006 - 2007
Gus joined the lab and went to sea in his first week! He worked on bacterial-algal interactions and participated in Micromonas growth experiments. His research expeditions include the Florida Straits, Florida to Cape Verde and back, and orchestrating our efforts in the North Pacific transects. Gus finished his B.S. in June of 2007 and stayed on for another half year to help the lab transition to MBARI, and perform the North Pacific research. From this research he coauthored our 2012 de novo wild pelagophyte chloroplast genome in Current Biology. Gus went on to study stream ecology at the Department of Marine Sciences, University of Puerto Rico and subsequently for a Ph.D. back on the mainland.
Sharria ScavellaSharria Scavella – High School Student Researcher, University of Miami, Summer 2007
Sharria’s is interested in the medical field – but joined our lab to learn basic science. She worked on nitrogen growth physiology of Micromonas. At the end of the summer she placed 3rd for her talk on this research at a in a national competition held in Bethesda Maryland.
Heike MoehligHeike Moehlig, Ph.D. - Post-Doctoral Associate, RSMAS University of Miami, 2006 – 2007
Heike completed her Ph.D. in Germany in the field of immunology and came to the lab to work on phagocytosis in marine nanoflagellate predators. She also co-authored our work on the distribution of a newly identified protistan group (putatively photosynthetic), the biliphytes. Heike moved into biotech (back in Germany). While in Miami Heike also became a sailing aficionado.
Gus EngmanJoshua Lake – Undergraduate Extern, MIT Independent Activities Period 2006
Joshua came to the lab while working on his degree in Materials Science at MIT. He worked to set up a system in the lab for incubating phytoplankton in an isothermal environment where they could be exposed to both high light and UV radiation. He also worked on cell cycle analysis of prasinophytes using flow cytometry and the nucleic acid stain Sybr green.
Jason HiltonJason A. Hilton - Undergraduate Honors Thesis Student, University of Miami, 2005 - 2006
Jason undertook the Florida Straits work, specifically the Fluorescence in situ Hybridizations (under th guidance of Dr. F. Not) on different eukaryotic algae. He organized and performed a large number of the Florida Straits expeditions and is a co-author on Cuvelier et al. PNAS 2010. Jason went on for a Ph.D. program in the Department of Ocean Sciences, University of California Santa Cruz in the lab of Jon Zehr, which he defended in 2014.
Vladimer CessantVladimer Cessant - Undergraduate Researcher Summer 2005
Vladimer worked the lab during his junior summer at University of Miami.
Fabrice NotFabrice Not, Ph.D. - Post-Doctoral Associate, RSMAS University of Miami, 2004 – 2005
Fabrice is now a faculty member at the Station Biologique de Roscoff ( We had a lucky coincidence of an unexpected award coming in (The Moore Young Investigator Award to AZW) and Fabrice finishing his Ph.D. and still waiting on proposals he had written to stay in Europe. Fabrice initiated the Florida Straits time series and worked on the diversity of picoeukaryotes in the Sargasso Sea - and is first author on the Environmental Microbiology publication from that work. He also co-authored the picoeukaryotes chapter on picoeukaryotes with Alex in Kirchman’s “Microbial Ecology of the Oceans”.
Last updated: Sep. 22, 2015