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KATRINA EDWARDS (2012)

Professor Katrina Edwards is a renowned expert on the reciprocal interactions between microbes and rocks and minerals at the ocean floor and how these processes influence global biogeochemical processes. Dr. Edwards received her Ph.D. in geomicrobiology from the University of Wisconsin in 1999. She was Assistant, and then Associate, Scientist in the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution from 1999 to 2006. At the University of Southern California, Dr. Edwards was Associate Professor (2006–2009) and then Professor (2009 to present) in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Earth Sciences.

Dr. Edwards has employed a diverse array of tools ranging from geology and geochemistry to oceanography, microbiology and molecular biology to push forward our understanding of a globally important ecosystem that is both remote and technically challenging to study. Her early work on the microbiology of acid mine drainage and the discovery of unique microorganisms capable of oxidizing iron and leaching sulfide led her to ponder about the involvement of microbes in the weathering of rocks in the deep sea. She has subsequently made fundamental contributions to knowledge on their role in mineral deposition, rock alteration, iron speciation and cycling in the oceans. She has also examined microbial population structures and geochemistry in the deep ocean and the variation in microbial communities in hydrothermal sulfides, in hydrothermal plumes and in deep basalts. These studies are revealing, for the first time in the deep sea, is a distinct biogeography among microbes that correlates with the chemical and mineralogical nature of each of these habitats.

In parallel with her scientific record, Dr. Edwards has taken a leadership role in organizing the deep biosphere research community. She has served on numerous Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Steering committees, and initiated and led an international deep biosphere project in the mid Atlantic. Dr. Edwards also led the US National Science Foundation-supported Loihi Microbial Observatories program. Recently, she took the lead on establishing a major $25 Million NSF Science and Technology Center dedicated to the study of the Deep Biosphere of Earth, and involving a consortia of 29 Universities and research centers; Dr. Edwards is now Director of this project known as the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations.