Rachel is a microbial oceanographer at BIOS. She received her bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and Biological Chemistry from the University of Nottingham in 1991, and her master's degree in Aquatic Resource Management from King's College, London, in 1993. Her master's degree work included a research project at BIOS, where she had previously participated in the Bermuda Program. Rachel joined BIOS's staff in 1994, working for Dr. Dennis Hansell on projects that included investigations of dissolved organic matter and the oceanic carbon cycle in the Antarctic, North Atlantic, Arabian Sea and Pacific Ocean. In 1998, she joined Dr. Craig Carlson in the Microbial Ecology Program, where she was the onsite manager of the Oceanic Microbial Observatory, a collaboration between BIOS, the Carlson Laboratory at the University of California, and Dr. Stephen Giovanonni's laboratory at Oregon State University. Rachel also runs the Microscopy and Image Analysis Facility at BIOS. Using an Olympus AX 70 microscope equipped with a Retiga Exi digital camera and Image Pro Plus 7.0 software, enables users to perform state of the art analysis at the cellular level.
Rachel presently runs the Microbial Ecology Laboratory at BIOS. Within this program, she investigates the microbial communities in the open ocean at the BATS site using a variety of molecular techniques. In 2011, she published a paper on ten years of viral dynamics at the BATS site. Rachel is currently investigating how the microbial community adapts to changing oxygen levels within the twilight zone of the Atlantic Ocean. Here, bacteria and archaea form a previously unresolved secondary peak within the upper oxycline (400-800m). Specific bacteria and archaea lineages and the presence of targeted genes within the twilight zone suggest that this depth horizon has the metabolic potential for autotrophic carbon fixation, sulphur metabolism and nitrification.
As a Bermudian, Rachel is also interested in the inshore waters and often mentors intern projects that investigate local issues such as the microbial communities of the inshore waters, specifically those used to detect sewage contamination. She also has projects that investigate global issues such as the microbial response to ocean acidification and how microbes respond to anoxia, using Bermuda's Devil’s Hole as a natural laboratory. Most recently, Rachel has collaborated with scientists from WHOI in order to investigate coral-microbe interactions. This research found that corals influence the microbial community within the surrounding reef water via selective grazing on specific microbial lineages. Many of these projects start with student interns and she has mentored over thirty students since 2002. Many of her student interns stay in scientific research and continue on to study at the PhD level.
For a list of publications, conference proceedings and her student involvement, please refer to her CV.