Dr. Jill Mikucki

Assistant Professor

The Mikucki lab studies the interactions between microbes and their environment and how the impact of microbial metabolism is detectable on an ecosystem scale. Subglacial environments serve as our "model" ecosystem because their isolation and relatively simple food-webs allow for the study of microbially-mediated processes, which can be difficult to identify in more complex ecosystems.

Ice covers approximately 10% of the continental landmass on the planet making subglacial environments an important, yet poorly understood component of the Earth system. Subglacial aquatic environments serve as analogs for past global glaciation events, inform exobiological exploration, yield novel microorganisms for diversity studies and biotechnological advancement and will help us understand life's ability to persist in cold and dark isolation for extended periods of time. Direct sampling of subglacial environments is tricky and microbial inhabitants grow slowly making the detection of in situ processes challenging. Thus, our work is highly collaborative and we employ a diversity of tools- from remote sensing to isotope geochemistry and culture and molecular microbiology. Clean access is a priority in these pristine systems and an important aspect of our work includes methods to monitor and insure clean sampling.

Research in the lab is guided by the following themes:

  1. diversity and structure of microbial communities
  2. linkages between microbial energetics and contemporary and ancient geochemistry, and
  3. selection of microbial species and physiologies in extreme environments.

Currently funded projects in the laboratory include the exploration of Antarctic subglacial aquatic systems beneath the Whillans Ice Stream in West Antarctica and the mysterious Blood Falls subglacial ecosystem in the McMurdo Dry Valleys.

  • Mikucki, J.A., S.K. Han and B.D. Lanoil. 2011. Subglacial and Permafrost Environments In: Ecology of Psychrophiles. F. Robb (ed).
  • Mikucki, J.A., W.B. Lyons, I. Hawes, B.D. Lanoil, P.T. Doran. 2010. Saline lakes and ponds in the McMurdo Dry Valleys: ecological analogs to Martian paleolake environments. In: Life in Antarctic Deserts and Other Cold Dry Environments: Astrobiological Analogues. P.T. Doran, W.B. Lyons, and D. McKnight, (eds).
  • Mikucki, J.A., A. Pearson, D.T. Johnston, A.V. Turchyn, J. Farquhar, D.P. Schrag, A.D. Anbar, J.C. Priscu and P.A. Lee. 2009. A contemporary microbially-maintained ferrous subglacial 'ocean.' Science. 324: 397-400.
  • Mikucki, J.A. and J.C. Priscu. 2007. Bacterial diversity associated with Blood Falls, a subglacial outflow from the Taylor Glacier, Antarctica. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 73(12):4029-4039.
  • Christner, B.C., J. A. Mikucki, C.M. Foreman, J. Denson, and J.C. Priscu. 2005. Glacial ice cores: A model system for developing extraterrestrial decontamination protocols. Icarus 174:572-584.
  • Mikucki, J.A., C.M. Foreman, B. Sattler, W.B. Lyons, and J.C. Priscu. 2004. Geomicrobiology of Blood Falls: An iron-rich saline discharge at the terminus of the Taylor Glacier, Antarctica. Aquatic Geochemistry. 10(3-4):199-220.
  • Lee, P.A, J.A. Mikucki, C.M. Foreman, J.C. Priscu, G.R. DiTullio, S.F. Riseman, S.J. deMora, C.F. Wolf and L. Kester. 2004. Thermodynamic constraints on microbially mediated processes in lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Geomicrobiology Journal 21:1-17.
  • Mikucki, J.A., Y. Liu, M. Delwiche, F.S. Colwell, and D.R. Boone. 2002. Methanoculleus submarinus sp. nov., a novel methanogen isolated from deep marine sediments that contain methane hydrates. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 69(6):3311-3316.

B.A., 1996, University of North Carolina, Wilmington

M.S., 2001, Portland State University

Ph.D., 2005, Montana State University

Postdoctoral Fellow, 2006-2007, Harvard University

Postdoctoral Fellow, 2008, Dartmouth College



The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Big Orange. Big Ideas.

Knoxville, Tennessee 37996 | 865-974-1000
The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System