Marine biogeochemistry & microbial physiology

Hello! I’m Natalie. I study the physiology, molecular ecology, and functional diversity of marine microbes, with a special interest in how they respond to environmental stress. This December, I am beginning a new appointment as an Assistant Professor in Biological Oceanography at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and University of Georgia Department of Marine Sciences. I received my PhD from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Department of Marine Sciences, and I am currently a Simons Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

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Marine phytoplankton are incredibly important on our planet – they provide approximately half the planet’s oxygen supply through photosynthesis and influence climate over geologic timescales by transferring carbon from the atmosphere to the deep ocean. Their growth is dependent on a supply of various metals required for biological processing, some of which are unfortunately hard to come by in the ocean.

I aim to explore how variations in trace metal supplies influence metal metabolism among diverse groups of protists through a combination of field-based community experiments, lab-based culture analyses, and environmental bioinformatic processing. By linking the concentrations of bioactive trace metals such as dissolved iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), cobalt (Co), nickel (Ni), zinc (Zn), and cadmium (Cd) with gene and protein expression patterns, I hope to better understand the clever strategies phytoplankton have evolved for subsisting across biogeochemically distinct and highly complex marine environments.

In addition to my scientific interests, I am passionate about creating safe and welcoming environments in STEM, and in recruiting and retaining diverse scientists.

I am looking for a graduate student to join the lab in Savannah in Fall 2021! Applicants with backgrounds in oceanography, microbial ecology, geochemistry, and/or computational biology are especially encouraged. There are laboratory, research cruise and computational-based opportunities available. Potential projects include evaluating the role of trace metals in shaping microbial communities, characterizing coastal phytoplankton physiology in response to micronutrient availability and investigating shifts in protistan metabolism across geochemical gradients through ’omic techniques. Please email if you would like more information about the lab (ncohen@whoi.edu) and include a brief summary of interests! Check out more information about the UGA Department of Marine Sciences program here.