• Victoria Orphan

Microbial Life Support: The Invisible Living Networks that Shape Our Oceans

Watson Lecture Preview

While invisible to the naked eye, microorganisms and their interactions with each other and their environment play fundamental roles in the cycling of elements critical to life on our planet. In deep ocean sediments, billions of microorganisms compete and cooperate via a complex network of metabolic interactions that are still poorly understood, but are important in the cycling of methane and sequestration of carbon.

In her April 11 Watson Lecture, Victoria J. Orphan (PhD '02), the James Irvine Professor of Environmental Science and Geobiology in Caltech's Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, will talk about the activities of marine microorganisms from those at the ocean surface to those deep in the earth's crust, and will consider the globally important geochemical processes they orchestrate through metabolic collaboration.

Orphan's specific research interests include the structure and function of microbial communities in the deep subsurface, deep ocean sediments, oil and gas seeps, and environments that represent analogs for that of early Earth; her work has a specific emphasis on the interactions that occur between microbes that produce and consume methane. Orphan earned her PhD at the UC Santa Barbara in 2001, and started at Caltech as an assistant professor 2004, and was named the James Irvine Professor of Environmental Science and Geobiology in 2016.

The lecture—which will be held at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11, in Beckman Auditorium—is a free event; no tickets or reservations are required.

Named for the late Caltech professor Earnest C. Watson, who founded the series in 1922, the Watson Lectures present Caltech and JPL researchers describing their work to the public. Many past Watson Lectures are available online at Caltech's YouTube site.