Brian Hedlund

Professor, Life Sciences
Expertise: Microbial Ecology and Genomics, Life at High Temperature, Astrobiology, Biotechnology and Biofuels, International Collaboration (China)


Brian Hedlund’s research studies microorganisms in a variety of contexts and habitats, including animal models of Clostridium difficile infection, desert springs, and a variety of biotechnological applications. Our best-known work focuses on terrestrial geothermal springs in the western US and abroad. A major research thrust is exploration of microbial biodiversity. Currently, only half of the major lineages (phyla) of bacteria have been cultivated in a laboratory or carefully described in scientific literature. Many of these “dark” lineages are abundant in terrestrial geothermal systems and therefore ecologically important. We work with a variety of collaborators to learn about these organisms by combining microbial cultivation with environmental systems biology approaches such as environmental genomics (single-cell genomics and metagenomics), meta-transcriptomics and -proteomics, and targeted and whole-community stable isotope approaches such as fluorescence in situ hybridization coupled with nano-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (FISH Nano-SIMS) and quantitative stable isotope probing (SIP). These studies have also recently expanded to microorganisms in non-thermal springs in the Southwest.

Hedlund also collaborates with industrial and academic partners on a wide variety of projects, including those focused on the development of disease diagnostics and prophylactic drugs, understanding the human microbiome, and developing biofuels technologies. 

Hedlund's research is well funded, with major funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He is an author of the SeqCode, which uses genome sequence data as nomenclatural types. The SeqCode allows expansion of formal nomenclature to uncultivated microorganisms that make up a substantial proportion of the tree of life. Hedlund regularly serves on grant review panels for national and international funding agencies.


  • Ph.D., Microbiology, University of Washington
  • B.S., Biology, University of Illinois

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Brian Hedlund In The News

Las Vegas Review Journal
The team of UNLV microbiologists set up their equipment in the end of a pipe connected to a natural spring, hoping to filter some of the smallest known living things out of the nearly 4,000-year-old water.
Swift Telecast
What’s in a name? For microorganisms, apparently a lot. Prokaryotes are single-celled microorganisms—bacteria are an example—that are abundant the world over. They exist in the oceans, in soils, in extreme environments like hot springs, and even alongside and inside other organisms including humans.
True Viral News
Current regulations of the International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes require new species to be grown in a lab and distributed as pure and viable cultures. To prove it, you have to have more than one specimen. A team of scientists presented a new system, the SeqCode, and a corresponding registration portal in an article published in the journal Nature Microbiology.
Scientists are just starting to uncover the vast diversity of microbes out there. The only problem? No one can agree on how to name them.

Articles Featuring Brian Hedlund