Directory Profiles

Dr. Peter Dunfield


Dr. Peter Dunfield is a Professor at the University of Calgary. He has previously worked for the Max-Planck Society in Germany, where he studied how bacteria contribute to the environmental methane cycle, and for the Institute for Geological and Nuclear Sciences in New Zealand, where he studied bacteria in geothermal springs and geothermal power developments. His recent work has been supported by NSERC, Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA), Mitacs, Alberta Innovates, Genome Canada/Genome Alberta, the Joint Genome Institute (US DoE), and The Canadian Oilsands Innovation Alliance (COSIA). Dr. Dunfield is a microbial ecologist who specializes in two areas:

1) Fundamental studies into the diversity of microbial life. The most ancient limbs of the Tree of Life (Phyla or Kingdoms) are microbes. However, the vast majority of these microbes have never been cultured in a laboratory. We use DNA-based genomic and metagenomic techniques, as well as traditional cultivation-based microbiology, to study this vast unknown diversity. We focus especially on geothermal springs in western Canada, which are rich in uncultured bacterial lineages. Recently we discovered a new phylum of life in a mountain spring in BC, for which we proposed the name Kryptonia thompsonii (after the explorer/geographer David Thompson).

2) Applied studies into bacterial methane oxidation. Methane is both an extremely potent greenhouse gas and an inexpensive fuel. We use methane-eating or methanotrophic bacteria in developing biofiltration strategies to minimize methane emissions. We are also investigating the potential use of these bacteria to create value added products from natural gas, and to bioremediate oilsands tailings waste.

Recent Publications

Kryptonia, a novel bacterial phylum discovered through a global metagenomic survey
Eloe-Fadrosh EA, Paez-Espino D, Jarett J, Dunfield PF, Hedlund BP, Grasby SE, Brady AL, Dong H, Briggs BR, Li WJ, Goudeau D, Malmtrom R, Pati A, Rubin EM, Woyke T, Kyrpides NC & Ivanova NN
Nature Communications 7: Article 10476 (2016)

Humboldt’s spa:Microbial diversity is controlled by temperature in geothermal environments
Sharp CE, Brady AL, Sharp GH, Grasby SE, Stott MB, & Dunfield PF
ISME Journal 8:1166-1174 (2014)

Methanotrophic bacteria in oilsands tailings ponds of northern Alberta
Saidi-Mehrabad A, He Z, Tamas I, Sharp CE, Brady AL, Rochman F, Bodrossy L, Abell GCJ, Penner T, Dong X, Sensen CW & Dunfield PF
ISME Journal 7:908-921 (2013)