University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

Hanson wins DAAD grant for research in Germany

Thomas Hanson, associate professor of marine biology and biochemistry at the University of Delaware, has received a Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) German Academic Exchange Service award that will support his sabbatical visit to an institute in Braunschweig, Germany.

He has traveled to Germany to learn new techniques in understanding the role of previously un-cultured environmentally relevant microbes.

Hanson will be the guest of Prof. Jörg Overmann, the director of the Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganism und Zellkulturen GmbH (DSMZ) -- a world-class center for the isolation, culture and maintenance of microorganisms as pure cultures.

“My research program is focused on identifying and understanding the physiological strategies and adaptations that allow microorganisms to survive and compete in the environment,” said Hanson. “To really do this well, you need cultures that you can test in the lab that are highly related to those in the environment.”

Hanson's experience in Germany will supplement his work on two particular research projects he's working on back home at UD -- one concerning the study of phototrophic sulfur bacteria from geochemically intriguing environments in the Bahamas; the other, the study of important Arctic tundra soil microbes from Alaska that have a hand in controlling the fate of large stores of soil carbon. Thus, he is trying to understand microbes from both tropical and Arctic regions.

“My research in Germany will focus on isolating new microbes relevant to both of these projects,” said Hanson. “Prof. Overmann and the DSMZ are uniquely qualified to provide assistance.”

The Hanson and Overmann groups have already collaborated on understanding a unique microbial symbiosis, work recently published in Environmental Microbiology that included UD College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment graduate student Brian Eddie.

“This visit will help lay the foundations for even closer interactions between our groups, not only in phototrophic bacteria, but in trying to understand similarities and differences in the same types of microbes isolated from Alaskan tundra and African soils, two very different environments,” said Hanson.

“My long-term research goal is to understand the physiology of environmentally relevant microorganisms and how those activities, in turn, affect their environment,” said Hanson. “Ultimately, this approach will improve our ability to predict how microbes shape the environment we live in.”

Article by Laura Crozier