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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 focuses on life in high temperature habitats, especially geothermal springs in the Western U.S. and China. The study of high-temperature ecosystems (>73°C) is a research frontier because temperature alters the ecology of these systems in ways that are important but poorly understood, and because some springs are hot spots for novel, uncultivated organisms, or so-called “microbial dark matter”.

To understand how individual microorganisms operate as part of high temperature ecosystems, Hedlund and his team employ an integrated approach, including thermodynamic modeling, ecosystem activity measurements, microbial cultivation and systematics, and genomics. The newest and most exciting work uses cutting-edge technology to study “microbial dark matter” organisms by using single-cell genomics and stable isotope probing. This research will allow us to better understand the foundations of life in geothermal systems, uncover the functions of enigmatic major lineages of microorganisms, and expand our knowledge of the diversity of life on Earth.

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). Hedlund is principal investigator on the Tengchong PIRE project, which is the largest international effort centering on life in terrestrial geothermal fields. He is an editor for Bergey's Manual of Systematics of Archaea and Bacteria, the definitive source on microbial taxonomy, and regularly serves on grant review panels for national and international funding agencies.


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

Brian Hedlund In The News

Nov 27, 2017

For eons humans have gazed into the heavens and pondered the mysteries of the universe.

Nov 20, 2017

In Northern Nevada’s Great Boiling Spring, strange microscopic creatures thrive in water hot enough to kill you.

Jun 23, 2016

Parasitic bacteria that are entirely dependent on the other bacteria they infect have been discovered for the first time, in human spit. The tiny cells have gone undetected for decades, but appear to be linked to gum disease, cystic fibrosis and antimicrobial resistance.

Jan 27, 2016

Although global microbial populations are orders of magnitude larger than nearly any other population in, on or around the planet, only a fraction has been identified thus far.

Articles Featuring Brian Hedlund

Brian Hedlund sampling water in a spring.
Nov 1, 2017
Campus News

UNLV Prof. Brian Hedlund is studying microorganisms in a Nevada hot spring; the results could help evaluate whether extraterrestrial life exists.

Brian Hedlund collects samples in grass at Lake Mead
Sep 28, 2016
Business and Community

DuPont Industrial Biosciences will sponsor research conducted by UNLV microbiologist Brian Hedlund.

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