Lisa Gibson

PhD Candidate

Lisa joined the Murrell lab as a PhD student in 2017. Her project centres around the molecular ecology of isoprene degrading bacteria, focusing on their diversity in the phyllospehere and rhizosphere of highly-emitting terrestrial plants. This project is funded by a European Research Council Advanced Grant Studentship.


Prof J Colin Murrell

Dr. Laura Lehtovirta morley



MSc Industrial Biotechnology – University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

Thesis title: Optimisation of the downstream purification process for extraction of biosurfactants produced by alkanotrophic Gordonia species.

Awards: IBioIC Best MSc Student Industrial Project

BSc (Hons) Applied Marine Biology – Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

Dissertation Title: Surfactant properties of EPS produced by marine proteobacteria Halomonas sp. TGOS-10.

Awards: Maia Strachan Award for Best Undergraduate Dissertation in Marine Biology


Project Description: Molecular ecology of isoprene degrading bacteria.

With a global output of 550 million tonnes, the monoterpene isoprene makes up a third of global biogenic volatile organic compound (BVOC) emissions. Yet while research on production of the gas and its effects on the atmosphere are relatively abundant, little is known about isoprene sinks and in particular, its biodegradation. Terrestrial plants are responsible for the bulk of organic production of isoprene. This has informed recent interest in identifying and characterising potential isoprene-degrading bacteria in the phyllosphere and rhizosphere, as it is thought the activity of these microbes could potentially help to balance the budget of the biogeochemical cycle of isoprene.

The aim of this project is to utilise both cultivation-dependant and cultivation-independent techniques to expand on the known variety of isoprene-degrading bacteria from a range of different environments. One aspect of this work will focus on the diversity of microbes found in proximity to plants known to produce high levels of isoprene, specifically Malaysian oil palms. These studies utilise methods such as DNA Stable Isotope Probing to identify species that may not be culturable in the lab via the use of amplicon sequencing and metagenomics.

Using enrichment assays, those species that can be cultivated will be grown and selected for from a range of environmental samples. These isolates will add to our database of known isoprene degrading species, providing essential sequencing data that can help to design new, more robust primers that can amplify a broader range of isoA (isoprene monoxygenase alpha subunit) representatives. Some of these species, such as the Gram-positive Actinobacteria Nocardioides sp.WS12, will act as model organisms for physiological, genetic and metabolic analysis.

Further work will address the question: To what scale does isoprene emission from plants impact their associated microbial community structure as a whole?


Contact Details

School of Environmental Sciences,
University of East Anglia,
Norwich Research Park
Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK


+44 (0)1603 592239