Graduate Student Environmental Life Sciences The College of Lib Arts & Sci
Marc Fontánez (he/him/él) is an Environmental Life Sciences PhD student with a joint appointment at the School of Life Sciences and the School of Earth and Space Exploration. He is a native of Puerto Rico and earned a B.A. in microbiology from the Universidad de Puerto Rico. After culminating his post-baccalaureate fellowshipfrom the Woods Hole Partnership Education Program, conducting deep-sea research under Dr. Julie Huber, he joined ASU as a Research Technician and later as a graduate student, earning a Microbiology M.S. working on the biological carbon pump in oligotrophic ecosystems. Fontánez is now part of the Group Exploring Organic Processes in Geochemistry (GEOPIG) Biogeochemistry Lab, where he currently explores his new research aims. You can read more about Fontánez's research interests in the next section.
M.S. Microbiology, Arizona State University, 2022
B.A. Microbiology, Universidad de Puerto Rico–Humacao, 2019
The understanding of microbial abundance and its dynamics in the ocean has been rapidly evolving thanks to the revolution in sequencing technology during the past few years. This has helped us better understand the regimes in which rare and dominant communities are modified and structured throughout the ocean biosphere. For example, in nutrient-poor conditions, such as those found in the Sargasso Sea, slow-growing oligotrophic microorganisms generally dominate the water column and exhibit high surface-to-volume ratios and small genome sizes that promote phylogenetic hierarchy and partitioning. On the other hand, the nutrient-rich patches found throughout these ocean "deserts," like particulate organic matter, harbor microbial “hotspots” for fast-growing copiotrophic microorganisms. Therefore, while only a few taxa dominate the abundance and distribution of microbial communities, less abundant taxa constitute most of the microbial diversity.
Marc Fontánez’s interest lies in understanding the spatiotemporal patterns of microbial diversity and dynamics that govern aquatic ecosystems and how these shape the environment and vice versa. This interest was inspired after a post-bac in Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution under Dr. Julie Huber, where he explored life in deep-sea basalt aquifers from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge using microscopy. Thereafter, he continued his studies in the Atlantic Ocean as a Master's student and was advised by Dr. Susanne Neuer at ASU. As part of the Trophic BATS project, he studied the biological carbon pump and explored the oligotrophic Sargasso Sea aboard the R/V Atlantic Explorer from the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. Fontánez aimed to understand the connections between the microbial communities in the water column and sinking particles using molecular techniques. These oligotrophic regions are important to understand as they are said to expand in a future warmer planet, therefore, having great implications for life on Earth.
As a PhD student, Fontánez is now being advised by Dr. Everett Shock. While this position starts in Fall 2022, he hopes to apply geochemical techniques to understand biological questions. He also hopes to explore life in “extreme” environments and what this could mean for life on other planets. There is more to come, but for now, he feels excited about this new chapter.
Group Exploring Organic Processes In Geochemistry (GEOPIG) Biogeochemistry Lab, 2022–present
Plankton Ecology Lab, 2020–2022
Buessecker, S., Sarno, A.F., Reynolds, M.C., Chavan, R., Park, J., Fontánez Ortiz, M.A., Pérez-Castillo, A.G., Panduo Pisco, G., Urquiza-Muñoz, J.D., Reis., L.P., Ferreira-Ferreira, J., Furtunato Maia, J.M., Holbert, K.E., Penton, C.R., Hall, S.J., Gandhi, H., Boëchat, I.G., Gücker, B., Ostrom, N.E., Cadillo-Quiroz, H. (n.d.).Coupled abiotic-biotic cycling of nitrous oxide in tropical peatlands. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Trembath-Reichert, E., Shah Walter, S.R., Fontánez Ortiz, M.A., Carter, P.D., Girguis, P.R., and Huber, J.A. (2021). Multiple carbon incorporation strategies support microbial survival in cold subseafloor crustal fluids. Science Advances. Sci. Adv, 7(18), 153–181. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abg0153.
Honors / Awards
School of Life Sciences MS Award
Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences Grant-In-Aid Fellowship
Graduate Excellence Award
Partnership Education Program Alumni Career Development Fund
Wood Hole Partnership Education Program Fellowship