Marc Fontánez’s interest lies in understanding the spatiotemporal patterns of microbial diversity and dynamics that govern aquatic ecosystems. He applies molecular techniques to render possible the exploration of the regimes that may structure microbial communities throughout the ocean biosphere. This approach has been helpful for him, for example, in comparing the structure of free-living and particle-attached microbial communities in nutrient-poor conditions. These oligotrophic regions, such as the Sargasso Sea, are said to expand in a future warmer planet, and which consequences are not well understood. Therefore, Marc is keen to study how biotic-abiotic interactions shape the environment and how life adapts to a changing planet.
Today, he focuses on understanding the intersection between microbiology and geochemical processes by studying water-rock-life interactions within extreme environments such as terrestrial hydrothermal ecosystems. Therefore, his involvement with the R/V Falkor (too) is fortuitous as he prepares to aid and apply microbial techniques to explore life in vent fields from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
Fontánez is an Environmental Life Sciences Ph.D. student with a joint appointment at the School of Life Sciences and the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University (ASU). He is a native of Puerto Rico, where he pursued an undergraduate degree in microbiology from the Universidad de Puerto Rico. During an internship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Marc Fontánez became interested in ocean sciences after being trained by Julie Huber; he explored life in deep-sea basalt aquifers from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge using microscopy. In 2022, he received an M.S. from ASU, studying the biological carbon pump using molecular techniques as part of the Trophic BATS project. In addition, Marc has been part of four research cruises near the Sargasso Sea aboard the R/V Atlantic Explorer from the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.