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Professor John Parkes FRS

Professor R. John Parkes, Head of the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences

Professor John Parkes

Professor John Parkes is an international leader in Geomicrobiology, who studies microbial processes in sediments: their biodiversity, activity, interactions, controls and environmental impact. He was the first scientist to comprehensively investigate the microbiology of deep marine sediments. He demonstrated, contrary to previously held views, that they contained large numbers of active microbes. He estimated that an additional 10% of the total living biomass on Earth was present in sub-seafloor sediments. He also demonstrated that these microbes were well adapted to their deep sediment habitat and not just buried cells dying slowly. He showed that the surface microbes grew very, very, slowly, on "geological" time scales of 1,000’s of years, due to limited energy supply. One of many profound impacts of this research has been on processes such as secondary gas formation, deep disposal (e.g. CO2, nuclear waste), souring of oil reservoirs and its significance for the origin of life and astrobiology.


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