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Anne Dekas receives NSF CAREER Award

The grant supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. 

BY Danielle Torrent Tucker
ClockMarch 30, 2022
Profile image for Anne Dekas

Anne Dekas, an assistant professor of Earth system science, recently received a 2022 National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award. The grant supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

Dekas leads the Geomicrobiology Laboratory in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth), which explores the diversity, distribution and activity of marine bacteria and archaea driving carbon, nitrogen and sulfur cycling. The research group investigates the microbiology and biogeochemistry of the deep sea – the largest and least-explored habitat on the surface of Earth – with a focus on processes directly and indirectly involved in the production and consumption of greenhouse gases.

Dekas’ CAREER Award proposal, Microbial activity and chemoautotrophy in the deep sea: who, how, and how much?, aims to investigate the genetic potential and activity of uncultured microorganisms about 600 to 13,000 feet deep. The research, which involves collecting samples during a one-day oceanographic expedition in the Northern Mediterranean Sea and a 14-day expedition in the Northeast Pacific Ocean, has the potential to change our understanding of the biogeochemical and ecological processes of the deep sea.

“A quantitative and mechanistic understanding of microbial carbon cycling in the deep sea is critical because of the role the deep sea plays in the chemistry and climate of the whole Earth system,” Dekas said.

The educational elements of the project include training two graduate students and one postdoctoral scholar in addition to a total of 20 undergraduate and high school summer students over five years, a laboratory course on the effects of climate change on deep-sea microbial activity and development of an annual Northern California Geobiology Symposium featuring student and postdoctoral research to help develop the careers of local trainees.

The NSF CAREER Award grants faculty members five years of financial support to foster innovative developments in science and technology, increase awareness of careers in science and engineering, give recognition to the scientific missions of the participating agencies, enhance connections between fundamental research and national goals, and highlight the importance of science and technology for the Nation’s future.

Journey to the bottom of the ocean

A keen interest in the possibility of alien life ultimately led geomicrobiologist Anne Dekas to study some of the least-examined microbes on Earth – those dwelling in the deep sea.

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