Michael Cunliffe currently holds a joint appointment between the Marine Biological Association of the UK (MBA) and Plymouth University. He joined the MBA in 2010 as an MBA Research Fellow, and in 2014 became a Lecturer in Marine Microbiology at Plymouth University. He has also been awarded an Honorary Lectureship in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia. Before joining the MBA, Michael was a postdoc at the University of Warwick and has a PhD in Microbiology from the University of Manchester.
At the MBA, Michael leads a marine microbiology research group, which is focused on understanding microbial community ecology and the biological and ecological mechanisms by which microorganisms contribute to ecosystem function. The multidisciplinary research integrates contemporary omics approaches with analytical biogeochemical techniques and classic microbiological methods, combining field-based observation of complex microbial communities and laboratory-based experiments using model microorganisms.
Michael has pioneered the use of molecular tools to study the microbial ecology of the sea-air interface. Focusing on bacteria and microbial eukaryotes, he has shown that assemblages at the sea-air interface are distinct from those in the underlying water column, and that specific functional groups are present that are linked to significant biogeochemical processes.
Michael has pioneered the use of molecular tools to study the microbial ecology of the sea-air interface (Cunliffe et al 2009a, Cunliffe et al 2011). Focusing on bacteria and microbial eukaryotes, he has shown that assemblages at the sea-air interface are distinct from those in the underlying water column (Cunliffe et al 2009a, Cunliffe et al 2009b, Taylor and Cunliffe 2014), and that specific functional groups are present that are linked to significant biogeochemical processes (Cunliffe et al 2008, Cunliffe and Murrell 2010, Cunliffe et al 2013).
Cunliffe M, Schafer H, Harrison E, Cleave S, Upstill-Goddard RC, Murrell JC (2008). Phylogenetic and functional gene analysis of the bacterial and archaeal communities associated with the surface microlayer of an estuary. The ISME Journal 2: 776-789.
Cunliffe M, Harrison E, Salter M, Schafer H, Upstill-Goddard RC, Murrell JC (2009a). Comparison and validation of sampling strategies for the molecular microbial ecological analysis of surface microlayers. Aquatic Microbial Ecology 57: 69-77.
Cunliffe M, Whiteley AS, Schäfer H, Newbold L, Oliver A, Murrell JC (2009b). Comparison of bacterioneuston and bacterioplankton dynamics during a phytoplankton bloom in a fjord mesocosm. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 75: 7173-7181.
Cunliffe M, Murrell JC (2010). Eukarya 18S rRNA gene diversity in the sea surface microlayer: insights on the structure of the neustonic microbial loop. The ISME Journal 4: 455-458.
Cunliffe M, Upstill-Goddard RC, Murrell JC (2011). Microbiology of aquatic surface microlayers. FEMS Microbiology Reviews 35: 233-246.
Cunliffe M, Engel A, Frka S, Gašparović B, Guitart C, Murrell JC et al (2013). Sea surface microlayers: A unified physicochemical and biological perspective of the air–ocean interface. Progress in Oceanography 109: 104-116.
Taylor JD, Cunliffe M (2014). High-throughput sequencing reveals neustonic and planktonic microbial eukaryote diversity in coastal waters. Journal of Phycology 50: 960–965.