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

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Brian Hedlund In The News

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.
The Scientist
The International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes recently pulled the rank of phylum into its code of official nomenclature. Experts say the move will help standardize science in the long run but potentially disrupt research now.

Articles Featuring Brian Hedlund