fieldwork in the strous lab

Microbial Markets (Strous Lab) Research

The Microbial Markets Lab is part of the Department of Geoscience and located in the award-winning EEEL building. Currently, students and scholars develop new biotechnology from alkaline soda lake microbiomes and grow enigmatic microbes from Alberta groundwater using geo-pops.

Rapid progress in DNA sequencing and other high throughput technologies have driven rapid progress in microbial ecology. Unfortunately, we lack theory to make sense of all the amassed data. The Microbial Markets lab draws inspiration from the field of Economy to develop new ecological theory and test hypotheses with creative market experiments. It also draws inspiration from the kitchen to develop new media for growing microbes more inclusively.

If you would like to know more about working in the Strous Lab, check out 1. our code, 2. our expectations, 3. the 500 questions for Candidacy and 4. our recruitment and selection procedures.

Growing cyanobacteria - from lab to scale

Alkaline Soda Lakes, Bioenergy and Alkaline Biotechnology

The Canadian Rockies feature a rich diversity of alkaline soda lakes. Some of these lakes contain prolific microbial mats mainly consisting of large, filamentous cyanobacteria. Our team enriched a community consisting of such a cyanobacterium and its associated heterotrophs. This community has potential for biotechnology, both for bioenergy production and production of phycocyanin, a natural blue pigment for food and beverage. The research is in part performed at pilot plant scale in our outdoor raceway pond. It also features fieldwork to learn more about the natural environment of the associated microorganisms. A spin off company was established, check out This project uses a combination of field work (sampling soda lakes), laboratory cultivation, outdoors experiments, metagenomics and proteomics.

Team Maryam Ataeian, Marianne Haines, Varada Khot, Angela Kouris, Stan Pankratz, Alex Paquette, William Richardson, Taina Tervahauta, Agasteswar Vadlamani, Marc Strous

Geo-pops (Lab Cultivation of Enigmatic Microbes from Groundwater)

Together with Alberta Environments and Parks, our group surveys groundwater samples for interesting microbes. Groundwater contains a large diversity of Bacteria, Archaea and Eukaryotes, that have never been grown in labs and that are evolutionary unrelated to anything we really know. In this research, we survey microbial biodiversity in groundwater from across the Province of Alberta. We then engineer surfaces, “Geo-pops”, and offer them to interesting groundwater microbiomes for growth, enabling new microbes to grow in new and original ways. Microbes can be primary colonizers of these surfaces. They can also be secondary colonizers, interacting with the primary colonizers as predators or symbionts. This project uses a combination of field work (sampling groundwater), laboratory cultivation, metagenomics and proteomics.

Team Damon Mosier, Muhe Diao, Marc Strous


Groundwater Sampling

Groundwater Sampling by Muhe Diao and Damon Mosier.

Undergraduate Research in the Strous Lab
  1. Optimizing biomass production in an outdoors raceway pond

    Angelica Markosky

    Department of Biological Sciences

    Supervised by Marianne Haines, Dr. Will Richardson


  2. Development of Flexible Photobioreactors

    Jeremy Ohlhauser

    Schulich School of Engineeering

    Supervised by Dr. Will Richardson



  3. Rheology of Mixtures of Algae and Media

    Beth Mentie

    Schulich School of Engineeering

    Supervised by Dr. Will Richardson


  4. Freezing Tolerance of Cyanobacteria used in Bioenergy

    Sim Lakhyan

    Department of Biological Sciences

    Supervised by William Richardson


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