Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Alexandra Worden leads a microbial ecology research group at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), a non-profit organization focused on the intersection of oceanographic research science and technology development. In 2004, she started as an Assistant Professor at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, leaving in 2007 to join MBARI. In 2012 Alexandra was named the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Investigator in Marine Microbiology.
As an undergraduate, Dr. Worden majored in history, the subject in which she holds a B.A. from Wellesley College (1992), and also concentrated in Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a NASA Earth Systems Science Fellow, she explored mortality and growth controls on photosynthetic microbes during her Ph.D. at University of Georgia’s Institute of Ecology.
In 2000, she became a NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, there showing that tiny unicellular eukaryotes can contribute significantly to marine photosynthesis. Worden was named a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Young Investigator in Marine Microbiology in 2004 and appointed a Fellow in CIFAR’s Integrated Microbial Biodiversity Program in 2009.
Dr. Worden’s research is highly interdisciplinary, integrating genomics and evolutionary biology to explore microbial roles in CO2 fixation. The lab focuses on population regulation of phototrophic microbes with an emphasis on carbon cycling in marine systems. Her group employs a range of methods and technologies, from sea-going oceanography to genomics and transcriptomics. Her lab has developed new approaches for genomic analysis of uncultured unicellular eukaryotes and for quantifying their contributions to marine photosynthesis. Dr. Worden sees tremendous urgency in gaining mechanistic understanding of biogeochemical cycles. An underlying principle for her research is that microbes must be studied at habitat scales relevant to their adaptive strategies to determine how their metabolism influences larger-scale ecosystem dynamics. She considers this principle essential for understanding how microbial communities and global CO2 uptake by phytoplankton will transition during climate change.
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