Bo Barker Jorgensen

Aarhus University


Primary Section: 63, Environmental Sciences and Ecology
Membership Type: International Member (elected 2020)

Biosketch

Bo Barker Jørgensen is a microbial ecologist working in the field of marine biogeochemistry. He is internationally recognized for his work on the microbiology and the processes of element cycling in marine sediments, including transformations of sulfur and methane and the physiological adaptations of microbial life to diverse environments, ranging from microscale gradients to the deep sub-seafloor. Jørgensen graduated from Aarhus University with a MS in biology in 1973 and a PhD in 1977. He became Senior Lecturer at Aarhus University in 1977 and Research Professor in 1987. In 1992 he became the founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany, where he headed the Department of Biogeochemistry. He also became Professor at the Department of Geoscience, Bremen University. He returned to Denmark in 2007 to found the Center for Geomicrobiology, a center of excellence of the Danish National Research Foundation. Since 2011, he is a professor of biology at Aarhus University. He has received international prizes and awards, including the German Environmental Prize, the ISME Jim Tiedje Award, and the ALSO A.C. Redfield Award.

Research Interests

Bo Barker Jørgensen’s group has over the past decade worked on the geomicrobiology of marine sediments with a focus on microbial life in deep subsurface sediments where half of all microorganisms in the ocean persist. The studies have combined highly sensitive radiotracer methods to determine key microbial processes with diverse DNA and RNA based methods to identify and quantify the relevant microbial communities. Resulting calculations show that the organisms are highly energy-limited and have generation times of tens to thousands of years. The buried communities develop during thousands of years through purifying selection of rare members of the surface communities that become predominant at depth. Specifically, the abundant archaea have no cultivated relatives but have unexpected genetic potential. The studies show that the overall community size is controlled by the hydrolytic degradation rate of complex organic matter while the turnover of the living biomass is driven by mortality due to lytic viruses. This subsurface life under extreme energy limitation is facilitated by exploitation of recalcitrant organic substrates, by biochemical protection of nucleic acids and proteins, and by repair mechanisms for random mismatches in DNA or damaged amino acids in proteins.

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