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Welcome to the Zhang Geomicrobiology and Biogeochemistry Lab

The Zhang laboratory seeks to understand microbial nutrient and energy transfer in past and present environments.  Our interdisciplinary approach, which draws inspiration from culture-based microbiology, molecular microbial ecology, and stable isotope geochemistry, is imbued by strong consideration of microbial metabolism at cellular and community scales and involves research in both laboratory and field settings.

Metalloproteins are a central theme in our research as they catalyze nearly all energy transfers in biology. Despite their importance, much remains to be understood about what controls metalloprotein activity in the environment. This fundamentally limits our ability to address changes in climate, elemental cycling, and the energy landscape. We believe that viewing metalloprotein activity in the context of broader metabolic fluxes within and between cells will aid in resolving long-standing questions in microbial biogeochemistry.

Opportunities for microbe lovers at both graduate and post-doc levels are available!  Postdoc positions are available for benthic N2 fixation, methane,and alternative nitrogenase related projects.  Undergrads interested in gaining research experience should take a look at summer internships in the Zhang lab funded by the The High Meadows Environmental Institute (see 

Please contact for more information.

Contact Information:
Princeton University, Department of Geosciences, M47 Guyot Hall, Princeton NJ 08544
Phone:  (609) 258-2489


Laboratory News

Friday, Feb 26, 2021
Our faculty Q&A series wraps up with an update from Professor Xinning Zhang, an environmental microbiologist jointly appointed in the Department...
Wednesday, Nov 4, 2020

Ashley Maloney is a recipient of the 2020 Simons Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships in Marine MicrobialEcology 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Eunah was awarded a...

Wednesday, Feb 12, 2020

Katja Luxem’s paper "Carbon substrate re-orders relative growth of a bacterium using Mo-, V-, or Fe-nitrogenase for nitrogen fixation" was just...

Monday, Dec 9, 2019

One of the environmental questions Zhang is exploring is why methane, a significant greenhouse gas, is increasing in the atmosphere.

Recent Publications

  • Critical inundation level for methane emissions from wetlands

    Salvatore Calabrese; Alicia Garcia; Jared L. Wilmoth; Xinning Zhang; Amilcare Porporato

    Global methane (CH4) emissions have reached approximately 600 Tg per year, 20-40% of which are from wetlands. Of the primary factors affecting these emissions, the water table level is among the most uncertain. Here we conduct a global meta-analysis of chamber and flux-tower observations of CH4 emissions and employ a mechanistic model to show...

  • Biological nitrogen fixation by alternative nitrogenases in terrestrial ecosystems: a review

    J. P. Bellenger; R. Darnajoux; X. Zhang; A.M.> Kraepiel

    Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF), a key reaction of the nitrogen cycle, is catalyzed by the enzyme nitrogenase. The best studied isoform of this metalloenzyme requires molybdenum (Mo) at its active center to reduce atmospheric dinitrogen (N2) into bioavailable ammonium. The Mo-dependent nitrogenase is found in all diazotrophs and is the only...

  • Carbon substrate re-orders relative growth of a bacterium using Mo-, V-, or Fe-nitrogenase for nitrogen fixation.

  • Global Nitrogen Cycle: Critical Enzymes, Organisms, and Processes for Nitrogen Budgets and Dynamics

    X. Zhang; B. B. Ward; D. M. Sigman

    Nitrogen (N) is used in many of life’s fundamental biomolecules, and it is also a participant in environmental redox chemistry. Biogeochemical processes control the amount and form of N available to organisms (“fixed” N). These interacting processes result in N acting as the proximate limiting nutrient in most surface environments. Here, we...