Carol Arnosti

Carol Arnosti

(919) 962-5754
(919) 962-1254
3117A Murray Hall CB#3300, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3300



Ph.D., MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 1993

Research Interests

  • Organic carbon cycling by microbial communities in marine sediments and seawater
  • Structural characterizations and transformations of macromolecular organic matter
  • Development/application of novel methods to measure microbial enzyme activities
  • Relationships between microbial community composition and function

Research and Activities

Work in the Arnosti lab focuses on microbially-driven carbon cycling in the ocean. They use chemical and microbiological methods to investigate the chemical structure and reactivity of high molecular weight organic matter, and to determine the role of microbial communities in organic matter degradation in seawater, marine sediments, and (sometimes) in freshwater locations.

Recent projects include:

  • studying carbon cycling under permanently cold conditions, with fieldwork in the Arctic. They are particularly interested in determining the functional consequences of microbial biogeography: the observation that microbial communities in high-latitude environments are different from their more temperate counterparts. Their work to date demonstrates that these differences extend to the manner in which these communities process organic carbon.
  • investigating the relationship between microbial community structure and function, work carried out in collaboration with the Teske lab (MASC). One current focal point of this work is on the effects of and aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • developing new means to measure specific steps in microbial carbon cycling is a major focal point of work in the lab. Current efforts focus particularly on development of new probes to measure microbial extracellular enzyme activities in seawater and sediments, and developing methods to measure enzyme activities in deeply-buried sediments. We are also developing new techniques to measure the activities of dissolved enzymes.
  • investigating the physics and dynamics of sinking aggregates in the ocean, and the consequences of variable sinking speed for carbon cycling (in collaboration with Brian White (MASC) and colleagues in the Department of Applied Math).

This work is funded primarily by the National Science Foundation; work in the Gulf of Mexico is funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Consortium (ECOGIG).