Colin Murrell is an environmental molecular microbiologist. His research is centred around the microbiology of atmospheric trace gases, focussing on methanotrophic and methylotrophic bacteria and bacteria that grow on isoprene. Methylotrophs are bacteria which can grow on one-carbon (C1) compounds such as methane, methanol, methylated amines, methanesulfonate, dimethylsulfide and methyl chloride. Activities range from the enrichment, isolation and characterisation of novel organisms from a wide variety of environments including soils, seawater, saltmarshes, methane seeps, hot springs, soda lakes, landfill and acidic peat bogs, through to their characterisation at the physiological, biochemical and molecular level. Key enzymes, including oxygenases are being purified, the genes encoding these enzymes cloned and the regulation of expression of key metabolic pathways are also being examined. The ecology of organisms is being studied using molecular biology and stable isotope and radioisotope techniques in order to establish the role of these bacteria in biogeochemical cycling of atmospheric trace gases and C1 compounds. This research has resulted in over 300 publications and six edited books. Over 50 PhD students have graduated from Colin’s laboratory and he has supervised well over 100 postdoctoral fellows, research technicians and visiting researchers from more than 30 countries. His work is multidisciplinary and ranges from the isolation of microbes that are involved in major biogeochemical cycles (C, N, S, metals) through to their characterization at the physiological, biochemical, molecular and ecological levels. He has also pioneered the use of molecular ecology techniques such as functional gene probing and DNA stable isotope probing to determine “which microbes are doing what in the environment”, particularly in the context of global biogeochemical carbon, nitrogen and sulfur cycles.
Through his research, Colin interacts with soil scientists, oceanographers, limnologists, speleologists, marine chemists, modellers and industry and local government and in his role as Director of the Earth and Life Systems Alliance he has initiated projects with plant and climate scientists across the Norwich Research Park. He is an elected Member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation and the European Academy of Microbiology and recently served as President of the International Society for Microbial Ecology. He has Chaired Gordon Research Conferences on Microbial Growth on C1 Compounds and Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
School of Environmental Sciences
University of East Anglia
Norwich Research Park
Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK