Dr. Benjamin Pontiller


Research Division: Marine Biogeochemistry
Research Unit: Biological Oceanography

Room: 029
Phone: +49 431 600-4141
E-Mail: bpontiller(at)geomar.de
Private Homepage

Address: GEOMAR Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel, Wischhofstr. 1-3, Tower 1, D-24148 Kiel, Germany

Research Interest

Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) is the prime biologically available form of organic carbon in the ocean. Current estimates suggest that marine phytoplankton produce half of Earth’s primary production, and roughly half of this organic carbon pool fuels heterotrophic bacteria and archaea. Thus, these tiny organisms play a vital role in the turnover of DOC since they are the predominant organisms that readily assimilate and transform the myriad of compounds in seawater. The metabolic potential encoded in the genomes of marine bacteria determines the uptake and utilization of these compounds. However, molecular details on how bacteria and archaea impact element cycles remain elusive. Hence, my research is based on field studies and experiments focusing primarily on natural marine microbial assemblages by deciphering their functional potential and activity when exposed to ecologically relevant sources of organic compounds. By integrating omics with chemical parameters and rate measurements, I am trying to provide novel details on bacterial carbon cycling. Collectively, these research efforts have the potential to contribute a mechanistic understanding of how the biogeochemical cycling of organic matter in the sea is regulated and how these functional cues and turnover rates may change in the future ocean.

Seagoning expeditions


  • 15. Jul - 08. Aug 2024 - PS143/2 (HAUSGARTEN), RV POLARSTERN
  • 12. Sep - 02. Nov 2024 - SO307 (INDICOM), RV SONNE


  • 10. Apr – 22 May 2024 - SO305 BIOCAT-IIOE2 (BIOgeoChemistry-ATmosphere Processes in the Bay of Bengal: A contribution to the International Indian Ocean Expedition 2, BIOCAT-IIOE2), assisting in planning DNA and RNA sampling of sediment traps and supervision of MSc-student (on board)
  • 22. May - 19 Jun 2023 - PS136 (PEBCAO - Fram Strait), RV POLARSTERN
  • 31. May - 10. Jul 2022 - M182 (MOSES Eddy Study III - Benthic and pelagic element cycling, fluxes and transport of nutrients to the seafloor off West Africa, influence of passing eddies), PI onboard the R/V METEOR, Atlantic Ocean, CTD profiling and water column sampling for biogeochemical and genomic analyses
  • 15. Jan - 15. Feb 2022 - SONNE 288 (HOMER - Humboldt Organic Matter Remineralization) onboard the RV SONNE, South Pacific Ocean. In situ samplings and long-term microcosm experiments
  • 11. Dec 2021 – 11 Jan 2022 - SONNE 287 CONNECT (Pan-Atlantic connectivity of marine biogeochemical and ecological processes and the impact of anthropogenic pressures), Assisting in planning of the sampling for bacterioplankton DNA and RNA sampling, supervision of MSc-student (on board), and writing project reports
  • 5. – 13. Aug 2016 - ENVISION III cruise (The role of B-vitamins in microbial plankton) onboard the RV Ramon Margalef, North-East Atlantic Ocean, Vigo, Spain. In situ samplings and onboard mesocosm experiments, focusing on the functional gene expression responses of natural bacterioplankton communities
  • 15. – 26. Apr 2016 -ENVISION II cruise (The role of B-vitamins in microbial plankton) onboard the RV Ramon Margalef, North-East Atlantic Ocean, Vigo, Spain. In situ samplings and onboard mesocosm experiments, focusing on the functional gene expression responses of natural bacterioplankton communities


  • May 2021 – P.hD., Ecology with specialization in marine microbial ecology, under supervision of Prof. Jarone Pinhassi, Ass. Prof. Daniel Lundin and Prof. Catherine Legrand, Linnaeus University, Centre for Ecology and Evolution in Microbial model Systems (EEMiS), Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Stuvaregatan 4, 39182 Kalmar, Sweden
  • September 2018 - Graduate Research School in Genomic Ecology, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology, Lund University, Sweden
  • June 2015 – M.Sc., Ecology with focus on marine biology and microbial oceanography, under supervision of Prof. Gerhard J. Herndl and Senior Scientist Dr. Thomas Reinthaler, University of Vienna, Department of Limnology and Biological Oceanography, Centre of Ecology, University of Vienna, Althanstraße 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria
  • February 2013 – B.Sc., Biology, University of Vienna, Althanstraße 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria


  • Delgadillo-Nuño, E, Teira, E, Pontiller, B, Lundin, D, Joglar, V, Pedrós-Alió, C, Fernández, E, Pinhassi, P, Martínez-García, S (2023). Coastal upwelling systems as dynamic mosaics of bacterioplankton functional specialization. Front. Mar. Sci. - Aquatic Microbiology, DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2023.1259783
  • Fridolfsson, E, Bunse, C, Lindehoff, E, Farnelid, H, Pontiller, B, Bergstrom, K, Pinhassi, J, Legrand, C, and Hylander, S. (2023) "Multiyear analysis uncovers coordinated seasonality in stocks and composition of the planktonic food web in the Baltic Sea proper." Sci Rep 13(1): 11865, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-38816-0
  • Scheidemann, L, Pontiller, B, Manna, V, Cisternas-Novoa, C, Celussi, M, Tsiola, A, Pitta, P, Magiopoulos, I, Engel, A (2022) "Dynamics and enzymatic degradation of exopolymer particles under increasing concentrations of silver ions and nanoparticles during a marine mesocosm experiment", Frontiers in Marine Science Marine Pollution, DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2022.955488
  • Pontiller, B, Martínez-García, S, Amnebrink, D, González, JM, Lundin, D, Teira, E, Pinhassi, J (2022) "Rapid bacterioplankton transcription cascades regulate organic matter utilization during phytoplankton bloom progression in a coastal upwelling system", ISME J, DOI: 10.1038/s41396-022-01273-0
  • Martinez-Garcia, S, Bunse, C, Pontiller, B, Baltar, F, Israelsson, S, Fridolfsson, E, Lindh, MV, Lundin, D, Legrand, C, Pinhassi, J (2022) "Temporal dynamics of function, composition and carbon cycling of free-living and particle-attached marine bacterioplankton", Frontiers in Microbiology, DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.834675
  • Laber, C, Pontiller, B, Bunse, C, Osbeck, C, Perez-Martinez, Di-Leo, D, C, Lundin, D, Legrand, C, Pinhassi, J, Farnelid, H (2022) Seasonal and spatial variations in Synechococcus abundance and diversity throughout the Gullmar Fjord, Swedish Skagerrak, Swedish Skagerrak, Frontiers in Microbiology, DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.828459
  • Pontiller, B, Perez-Martinez, C, Bunse, C, Osbeck CMG, Lundin, D, Pinhassi, J (2021) Taxon-specific shifts in bacterial and archaeal transcription of dissolved organic matter cycling genes in a stratified fjord, mSystems, DOI: 10.1128/mSystems.00575-21
  • Joglar, V, Pontiller, B, Martínez, S, Fuentes-Lema, A, Pérez-Lorenzo, M, Lundin, D, Pinhassi, J, Fernández, E, Teira, E (2021) Microbial plankton community structure and function responses to vitamin B12 and B1 amendments in an upwelling system. Appl Environ Microbiol, DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01525-21
  • Joglar V, Alvarez-Salgado XA, Gago-Martinez A, Leao JM, Perez-Martinez C, Pontiller B, Lundin D, Pinhassi J, Fernandez E, Teira E. (2021). Cobalamin and microbial plankton dynamics along a coastal to offshore transect in the eastern north atlantic ocean. Environ Microbiol 23:1559-1583, DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.15367
  • Hoetzinger M, Nilsson E, Arabi R, Osbeck CMG, Pontiller B, Hutinet G, Bayfield OW, Traving S, Kisand V, Lundin D, Pinhassi J, Middelboe M, Holmfeldt K. (2021). Dynamics of baltic sea phages driven by environmental changes. Environ Microbiol, DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.15651
  • Pontiller, B, Martinez-Garcia, S, Lundin, D, Pinhassi, J (2020) Labile dissolved organic matter compound characteristics select for divergence in marine bacterial activity and transcription. Frontiers in Microbiology – Aquatic Microbiology, DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.588778
  • Frank, HA, Pontiller, B, Herndl, JG, Reinthaler, T (2016) Erythromycin and GC7 fail as domain-specific inhibitors for bacterial and archaeal activity in the open ocean. Aquatic Microbial Ecology, 77: 99-110, DOI: 10.3354/ame01792.

Manuscripts submitted or in preparation

  • Pontiller, B, Karlsson, CMG, Teikari, JE, Traving, SJ, Happel, EM, Henke, B, et al. "Metatranscriptomic analysis uncovers divergent responses of Baltic Sea bacteria to forest and agriculture river loadings" (in preparation)
  • Bunse C, Lundin D, Lindh MV, Sjöstedt J, Israelsson S, Martínez-García S, Baltar, F, Muthusamy, SD, Pontiller, B, et al. "Seasonality and cooccurrences of free-living Baltic Sea bacterioplankton" (in preparation)
  • Bunse, C, Pontiller, B, Osbeck, CMG, Fridolfsson, E, Lundin, D, Moran, MA, Mederos, P, Pinhassi, J "Seasonal bacterioplankton dynamics and DOM turnover" (in preparation)

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