Jan. 13, 2022

Faculty of Science microbial ecologist named NSERC Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Geomicrobiology

Q-and-A with Marc Strous
Marc Strous
Marc Strous Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Dr. Marc Strous, PhD, of the Faculty of Science, is Canada’s new NSERC Tier 1 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Geomicrobiology. Tier 1 CRCs are given to outstanding researchers acknowledged by their peers as leaders in their fields.

Strous is one of two UCalgary scholars awarded a CRC by the federal government this week. Dr. Holly Sparks, PhD, DVM, assistant professor in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, was also recognized. Three scholars from the Faculty of Arts, Dr. Ken Waters, PhD; Dr. Amanda Melin, PhD; and Dr. Marit Rosol, PhD, have had their CRCs renewed for another term.

A faculty member at the University of Calgary since 2013, Strous has also been named to the 2019-2020 cohort of Parex Innovation Fellows, graduate program director in the Department of Geoscience, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Combining exciting science with real-world applications, Strous’s research draws from economic theory to advance microbial ecology in theory and experiment. It also contributes expertise to our society by working with local food and beverage businesses and supporting our local environment, for example with projects focused on groundwater.

Q: What is geomicrobiology, and how is it applied?

A: Geomicrobiology is the study of microbes associated with the Earth. That is conveniently broad, as it covers microbes living in almost any environment in our province. Research could be applied to environmental assessment and remediation (for example of groundwater), agriculture and even food and beverage.

Q: What is the focus of your research?

A: My research currently has two focal areas: the relationship between geology and the associated microbial communities in groundwater, and the sustainable production of a natural blue pigment using alkaline biotechnology.

Q: What will you be doing with your chair funding?

A: The chair funds enable me to do curiosity-driven research. My drive is to advance the field of microbial ecology. I’m interested in microbial interactions in natural ecosystems. One idea is to draw ideas from the field of economy to develop and test new ecological theory about co-operation, competition and predation in microbial communities.

Q:  Are you working with students? If so, what are some interesting things that they’re working on in your lab?

A: I’m currently working with five graduate students, Maryam, Alex, Marianne, Varada and Damon. I’m hoping to recruit two new students this year. Data from outdoor experiments with a large alkaline pond on campus is currently coming together for publication; it’s a unique and world-leading study. Also, data from a collaboration with Alberta Environment and Parks sampling microbial communities in groundwater across the province will be published this year, another example of a large-scale, groundbreaking study bringing together geology and microbiology.