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Department of Limnology and Bio-Oceanography
University of Vienna
Althanstrasse 14
1090 Vienna


Cruise picturesWork at SeaExpeditionsStation Map

Blog of the Pacific cruise with the R/V SonneRV Sonne

We are part of the VIME consortium

Welcome to the Microbial Oceanography
Lab at the University of Vienna


Marine microbes are uniquely important to life and form the major pillars of the biosphere. Their unique metabolisms allow marine microbes to carry out many steps of the biogeochemical cycles that other organisms are unable to complete.

Microbial oceanography focuses on deciphering the metabolic activity of Bacteria and Archaea thriving in the open ocean and relating their community composition to the biogeochemical fluxes in the water masses. This requires an interdisciplinary approach linking microbial and molecular ecology to biogeochemistry and to large scale water mass transport studied in physical oceanography.

Our main focus is the microbial oceanography of the deep ocean where the prokaryotic activity is relatively low compared to the euphotic zone. The deep ocean comprises about 70% of the total ocean volume and hence deep-water microbes mediate a substantial fraction of the biogeochemical cycles with thus far unknown metabolic pathways. We develop and improve available methods in molecular biology and biogeochemistry to make them usable in the most oligotrophic parts of the ocean. Then the information from biology and biogeochemistry is linked for a better understanding of how the microbial community might work in the dark ocean.


Microorganisms that fix inorganic carbon dissolved in the deep sea have a significant impact on the global carbon cycle. The diversity of micro-organisms and their energy sources is a scientific puzzle even after decades of deep-sea research. Marine researchers led by Gerhard J. Herndl from the University of Vienna and the American Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences have now shown that deep-sea nitrite-oxidizing bacteria are major players in the conversion of carbon dioxide into biomass. The results of the study are currently published in the renowned journal "Science".
"Major role of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria in the dark ocean carbon fixation": Maria G. Pachiadaki, Eva Sintes, Kristin Bergauer, Julia M. Brown, Nicholas R. Record, Brandon K. Swan, Mary Elizabeth Mathyer, Steven Hallam, Purificacion Lopez-Garcia, Yoshihiro Takaki, Takuro Nunoura, Tanja Woyke, Gerhard J. Herndl, Ramunas Stepanauskas.
Science 24 Nov 2017: Vol. 358, Issue 6366, pp. 1046-1051 DOI:10.1126/science.aan8260

A story of the oceans, phytoplankton, trace elements and carbon. Eric Achterberg from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Kiel will give a talk in the frame of the Wilhelm-Kühnelt Lecture Series in Ecology on the 29 November 2016, 16:00-17:00 lecture room 2, UZA I Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna.

Microbial Oceanography Course 2016
Abstract and more information

The microbial oceanography course 2016 took place in Banyuls sur Mer in the south of France from the 4-15 July with 16 MSc students attending from the University of Paris und the University of Vienna.
Microbial Oceanography Course 2016
Teaching staff: Gerhard J. Herndl, Roberta Hansman, Eva Sintes (Univ. Vienna), Ingrid Obernosterer (Lab Oceanogr. Banyuls sur Mer)

Expedition in the Pacific with the German research vessel Sonne. Six members of the microbial oceanography group were invited to join a cruise following a 12.000 km long transect starting in Auckland (New Zealand) ending in Dutch Harbor (Alaska, USA) after 40 days. We were reporting life from the ship in several blog articles.
The Sonne, built in 2014, is the current top research vessel maintained by Germany and sails exclusively in the Pacific.