Dr Alison Murray
Desert Research Institute (DRI)
Dr. Murray is a molecular microbial ecologist and biological oceanographer with research interests centered around a common theme of utilizing molecular biological and genomic approaches to describe the diversity of life, understand the evolutionary history, ecological roles, and physiological capacity and capabilities of free-living and symbiotic microorganisms several of which are considered to be at the extremes of where life exists. Dr. Murray has had long-term interests in developing technologies to study microorganisms in the natural environment. Recent work has taken Murray and her team to the Southern Ocean to study broad large scale ecosystem patterns in picoplankton. Murray’s also been involved in NASA’s new Ocean Worlds program and was co-chair of a Europa Lander Science Definition Team. Much of her work has been dedicated to developing environmental genomics technologies for detecting and studying organisms sampled directly from the environment, thereby circumventing the need for cultivation. Her research is interdisciplinary in nature, drawing upon oceanography, geosciences, computational biology, astrobiology and chemistry. She collaborates with a large network of scientists nationally and in Europe, Australia and New Zealand with expertise in these fields.
Dr. Murray’s research has taken her and members of her research group to the Antarctic Peninsula and Northwestern Weddell Sea and the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, the North Slope of Alaska and coastal Arctic, deep sea hydrothermal vents of the East Pacific Rise, and Yellowstone National Park to study the microorganisms inhabiting these diverse, and extreme ecosystems. She has also worked locally in the Sierra Nevada snowpack to characterize the nature and diversity of organisms in snow (i.e. snow algae and bacteria) and throughout the water column of Lake Tahoe in different periods of stratification through the year.