Dr. Kevin W. Becker

Associate Scientist
Research Division: Marine Biogeochemistry
Research Unit: Biological Oceanography


Building: 5, Tower:1
Room: 2.117
Phone: +49 431 600-4122
Email: kbecker(at)geomar.de

Wischhofstr. 1-3
D-24148 Kiel

Research Interest

As an organic geochemist, I work at the interface of biology, chemistry and geology and my overarching research interests revolve around the role of microorganisms in the regulation of global biogeochemical cycles. I am particularly interested in studying the ecophysiology of microbial communities in energy- and nutrient-limited environments, such as the open oligotrophic ocean and marine sediments. To this end, I investigate molecular-level responses of marine organisms to their changing environment, i.e. the information encoded in the molecular and isotopic composition of particulate and dissolved complex biomolecules. More recently, I also  became interested in the effects of ocean mesoscale eddies formed in eastern boundary upwelling systems on the biogeochemistry of the open ocean as well as the effects of microplastic pollution on microbial carbon cycling. With my research, I aim to contribute to our understanding of how and why organisms leave their particular chemical signals and to provide new insights on the microbial processes that drive biogeochemical processes in the modern ocean and the geological past.


Fig. 1. Sources of selected organic molecules in the marine environment used to study ocean biogeochemistry and microbial ecology.


  • Since March 2019 Senior Research Scientist, GEOMAR - Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany
  • Since March 2019 Guest Investigator, Woods Hole Oceanographic Insitution, USA
  • 2017- 2019 Postdoctoral Investigator, Woods Hole Oceanographic Instituton, USA
  • 2015-2017 Postdoctoral Scholar, Woods Hole Oceanographic Instituton & United States Geological Survey, USA


2015 - Dr. rer. nat., Geosciences, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany

2011 - M.Sc., Geosciences, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany

2009 - B.Sc., Geosciences, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany


[9] 06-07/2022 RV Maria S. Merian cruise MSM108, Long-Term Ecological Research in the Fram Strait.

[8] 01-02/2022 RV Sonne cruise SO288, Conjoint Monitoring of the Ocean Bottom offshore Chile (COMBO) & Remineralisation of organic matter in the deep ocean of the Humboldt Current System off northern Chile (HOMER).

[7] 11-12/2019 RV Meteor cruise M160, Eddy study to understand physical/chemical/biological coupling coupling and the biological carbon pump as a function of eddy type off West Africa (MOSES Eddy Study II).

[6] 07-08/2019 RV Meteor cruise M156, Eddy study to understand bentho-pelagic coupling and the biological carbon pump as a function of eddy type off West Africa (MOSES Eddy Study I).

[5] 03-04/2018 RV Falkor cruise FK180310, Eddy Exploration and Ecosystem Dynamics.

[4] 06-07/2017 RV Kilo Moana cruise KM1709, MESO-SCOPE (Microbial Ecology of the Surface Ocean – Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology).

[3] 04-05/2017 RV Atlantis cruise AT37/12, Dark Life II – Expedition to study subseafloor life at deep-sea vents. Participitation in descent in DSV2 Alvin on dive #4898 to a depth of 2523 m.

[2] 02/2011 RV Meteor cruise M84/1. DARCSEAS I - Deep subseafloor Archaea in the eastern Mediterranean, Marmara and Black seas: carbon cycle, life strategies, and role in sedimentary ecosystems.

[1] 04/2010 Alaska North Slope - Source characterization and temporal variation of methane seepage from thermokarst lakes on the Alaska North Slope in response to arctic climate change, invited by the U.S. Geological Survey.


[32] Devresse, Q., Becker, K.W., Engel, A. (2024). Distribution of polysaccharidic and proteinaceous gel−like particles in three cyclonic eddies in the Eastern Tropical North Atlantic. Frontiers in Marine Science 11, 1357646. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2024.1357646

[31] Zhu, Q., Elvert, M., Meador, T.B., Schröder, J.M., Doeana, K.D., Becker, K.W., Elling, F.J., Lipp, J.S., Heuer, V.B., Zabel, M., Hinrichs, K.-U. Comprehensive molecular-isotopic characterization of archaeal lipids in the Black Sea water column and underlying sediments. Geobiology 22 (2), e12589. doi: 10.1111/gbi.12589

[30] Beckett, S.J., Demory, D., Coenen, A.R., Casey, J.R., Dugenne, M., Follett, C.L., Connell, P., Carlson, M.C.G., Hu, S.K., Wilson, S.T., Muratore, D., Rodriguez-Gonzalez, R.A., Peng, S., Becker, K.W., Mende, D.R., Armbrust, E.V., Caron, D.A., Lindell, D., Follows, M.J., White, A.E., Ribalet, F., Weitz, J.S. (2024). Diel population dynamics and mortality of Prochlorococcus in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Nature Communications 15 (1), 2105. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-46165-3


[29] Stief, P., Schauberger, C., Becker, K.W., Elvert, M., Balmonte, J.P., Franco-Cisterna, B., Middelboe, M., Glud, R.N. (2023). Hydrostatic pressure induces transformations in the organic matter and microbial community composition of marine snow particles. Communications Earth & Environment 4, 377. doi: 10.1038/s43247- 023-01045-4

[28] Devresse, Q., Becker, K.W., Dilmahamod, A.F., Ortega−Retuerta, E., Engel, A. (2023). Dissolved organic matter fluorescence as a tracer of upwelling and microbial activities in two cyclonic eddies in the Eastern Tropical North Atlantic. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, e2023JC019821. doi: 10.1029/2023JC019821

[27] Galgani, L., Hepach, H., Becker, K.W., Engel, A. (2023). Sediment Traps: A Renowned Tool in Oceanography Applied to New Marine Pollutants. Oceanography 36 (Suppl. 1), Art. Nr. 16-0. doi: 10.5670/oceanog.2023.s1.16

[26] Devresse, Q., Becker, K.W., Bendinger, A., Hahn, J., Engel, A. (2022). Eddy-enhanced primary production sustains heterotrophic microbial activities in the Eastern Tropical North Atlantic. Biogeosciences 19(22), 5199–5219. doi: 10.5194/bg-19-5199-2022

[25] Holm, H.C., Fredricks, H.F., Bent, S.M., Lowenstein, D.P., Ossolinski, J.E., Becker, K.W., Johnson, W.M., Schrage, K. and Van Mooy, B.A.S. (2022). Global ocean lipidomes show a universal relationship between temperature and lipid unsaturation. Science 376(6600), 1487-1491. doi: 10.1126/science.abn7455

[24] von Jackowski, A. Becker, K.W., Wietz, M., Bienhold, C., Zäncker, B., Nöthig, E.-M. and Engel, A. (2022). Variations of microbial communities and substrate regimes in the eastern Fram Strait between summer and fall. Environmental Microbiology 24(9), 4124–4136. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.16036.

[23] Muratore, D., Boysen, A.K., Harke, M.J., Becker, K.W., Casey, J.R., Coesel, S.N., Mende, D.R., Wilson, S.T., Aylward, F.O., Eppley, J.M., Vislova, A., Peng, S., Rodriguez-Gonzalez, R.A., Beckett, S.J., Armbrust, E.V., DeLong, E.F., Karl, D.M., White, A.E., Zehr, J.P., Van Mooy, B.A.S., Dyhrman, S.T., Ingalls, A.E. and Weitz, J.S. (2022). Community-scale synchronization and temporal partitioning of gene expression, metabolism, and lipid biosynthesis in oligotrophic ocean surface waters. Nature Ecology & Evolution 6(2), 218–229. doi: 10.1038/s41559-021-01606-w

[22] Biller, S.J., Lundeen, R.A., Hmelo, L.R., Becker, K.W., Arellano, A.A., Dooley, K., Heal, K.R., Carlson, L.T., Van Mooy, B.A.S., Ingalls, A.E., Chisholm, S.W. (2021). Prochlorococcus extracellular vesicles: Molecular composition and adsorption to diverse microbes. Environmental Microbiology 24(1), 420–435. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.15834

[21] Elling, F.J, Hemingway, J.D., Kharbush, J.J., Becker, K.W., Polik, C.A., Pearson, A. (2021).Linking diatom-diazotroph symbioses to nitrogen cycle perturbations and deep-water anoxia: Insights from Mediterranean sapropel events. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 571. doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2021.117110

[20] Zhu, Q.-Z., Elvert, M., Meador, T.B., Becker, K.W., Heuer, V.B. and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2021). Stable carbon isotopic compositions of archaeal lipids constrain terrestrial, planktonic, and benthic sources in marine sediments. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 307, 319–337.doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2021.04.037

[19] Becker, K.W., Harke, M.J., Mende, D.R., Muratore, D., Weitz, J.S., DeLong, E.F., Dyhrman, S.T. and Van Mooy, B.A.S. (2021). Combined pigment and metatranscriptomic analysis reveals synchronized diel patterns of phenotypic light response across domains in the open ocean. The ISME Journal 15, 520–533. doi: 10.1038/s41396-020-00793-x

[18] Kharbush, J.J., Close, H.G., Van Mooy, B.A.S., Arnosti, C., Smittenberg, R.H., Le Moigne, FAC, Mollenhauer, G., Scholz-Böttcher, B., Obreht, I., Koch, B.P., Becker, K.W., Iversen, M.H., Mohr, W. (2020). Particulate organic carbon deconstructed: Molecular and chemical composition of particulate organic carbon in the ocean. Frontiers in Marine Science 7, 518. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00518

[17] Coffinet, S., Meador, T.B., Mühlena, L., Becker, K.W., Schröder, J., Zhu, Q.-Z., Lipp, J.S., Heuer, V.B., Crump, M.P., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2020). Structural elucidation and environmental distributions of butanetriol and pentanetriol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (BDGTs and PDGTs), Biogeosciences Discussion.17(2), 317–330. doi: 10.5194/bg-17-317-2020

[16] Evans, T.W., Coffinet, S., Könneke, M., Lipp, J.S., Becker, K.W., Elvert, M., Heuer, V., Hinrichs, K.-U. (2019). Assessing the carbon assimilation and production of benthic archaeal biomarkers using lipid-RIP. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 265, 431–442. doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2019.08.030

[15] Becker, K.W., Collins, J.R., Durham, B.P., Groussman, R.D., White, A.E., Fredricks, H.F., Ossolinski, J.E., Repeta, D.J., Carini, P., Armbrust, E.V., Van Mooy, B.A.S (2018). Daily changes in phytoplankton lipidomes reveal mechanisms of energy storage in the open ocean. Nature Communications 9(1), 5179. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-07346-z

[14] Becker, K.W., Elling, F.J., Schröder, J.M., Lipp, J.S., Goldhammer, T., Zabel, M., Elvert, M., Overmann, J., Hinrichs, K.-U. (2018). Isoprenoid quinones resolve the stratification of redox processes in a biogeochemical continuum from the photic zone to deep anoxic sediments of the Black Sea. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 84(10) e02736-17. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02736-17

[13] Götz, F., Longnecker, K., Kido Soule, M.C., Becker, K.W., McNichol, J., Kujawinski, E.B., Sievert, S.M. (2018). Targeted metabolomics reveals proline as a major osmolyte in the chemolithoautotrophic epsilonproteobacterium Sulfurimonas denitrificans. Microbiology Open; e586. doi: 10.1002/mbo3.586

[12] Brankovits, D., Pohlman, J.W., Niemann, H., Leigh, M.B., Leewis, M.-C., Becker, K.W., Iliffe, T.M., Alvarez, F., Lehmann, M.F., Phillips, B. (2018). Methane- and dissolved organic carbon-fueled microbial loop supports a tropical subterranean estuary ecosystem. Nature Communications 8, 1835. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-01776-x

[11] Elling, F., Könneke, M., Nicol, G.W., Stieglmeier, M., Bayer, B., Spieck, E., de la Torre, J.R., Becker, K.W., Thomm, M., Prosser, J.I., Herndl, G.J., Schleper, C., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2017). Chemo­taxo­nomic char­ac­ter­iz­a­tion of the thau­marchaeal lip­idome. Environmental Microbiology 18(2), 692–707. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.13759

[10] Elvert, M., Pohlman, J.W., Becker, K.W., Gaglioti, B., Hinrichs, K.-U. and Wooller, M.J. (2016). Methane turnover and environmental change from Holocene lipid biomarker records in a thermokarst lake in Arctic Alaska. The Holocene 26(11), 1766–1777. doi: 10.1177/0959683616645942

[9] Becker, K.W., Elling, F.J., Yoshinaga, M.Y., Söllinger, A., Urich, T. and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2016). Unusual butane- and pentanetriol-based tetraether lipids in Methanomassiliicoccus luminyensis, a representative of the seventh order of methanogens. Applied and Environmental Microbiology  82(15), 4505–4516. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00772-16

[8] Braun, S., Y Morono, Y., Becker, K.W., Hinrichs, K.-U., Kjeldsen, K.U., Jørgensen, B.B., Lomstein, A.A. (2016). Cellular content of biomolecules in sub-seafloor microbial communities. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 188, 330–351. doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2016.06.019

[7] Hamann, E., Gruber-Vodicka, H., Kleiner, M., Tegetmeyer, H.E., Riedel, D., Littmann, S., Chen, J., Milucka, J., Viehweger, B., Becker, K.W., Dong, X., Stairs, C.W., Hinrichs, K.-U., Brown, M.W., Roger, A.J. and Strous, M. (2016). Environmental Breviatea harbour mutualistic Arcobacter epibionts. Nature 534, 254–258. doi: 10.1038/nature18297

[6] Elling, F.J.*, Becker, K.W.*, Könneke, M., Schröder, J.M., Kellermann, M.Y., Thomm, M. and Hinrichs, K.U. (2016). Respiratory quinones in Archaea: phylogenetic implications and application as biomarkers in the marine environment. Environmental Microbiology 18(2), 692–707. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.13086.*These authors contributed equally to this work.

[5] Becker, K.W., Lipp, J.S., Wörmer, L., Versteegh, G.J.M. and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2015). Rapid and simultaneous analysis of three molecular sea surface temperature proxies and application to sediments of the Sea of Marmara. Organic Geochemistry 85, 42–43. doi: 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2015.04.008

[4] Elling, F.J., Könneke, M., Lipp, J.S., Becker, K.W., Gagen, E.J., Hinrichs, K.-U. (2014). Effects of growth phase on the membrane lipid composition of the thaumarchaeon Nitrosopumilus maritimus and their implications for archaeal lipid distributions in the marine environment. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 141, 579–597. doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2014.07.005

[3] Becker, K.W., Lipp, J.S., Zhu, C., Liu, X. and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2013). An improved analytical method for the analysis of archaeal and bacterial ether lipids. Organic Geochemistry 61, 34–44. doi: 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2013.05.007

[2] Zhu, C., Lipp, J.S., Wörmer, L., Becker, K.W., Schröder, J., Hinrichs, K.-U. (2013). Comprehensive glycerol ether lipid fingerprints through a novel reversed phase liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry protocol. Organic Geochemistry 65, 53–62. doi:  10.1016/j.orggeochem.2013.09.012

[1] Wooller, M.J., Pohlman, J.W., Gaglioti, B., Langdon, P., Jones, M.C., Walter-Anthony, K.M., Elvert, M., Becker, K.W., Hinrichs, K.-U. (2012). Reconstruction of past methane availability in an Arctic Alaska wetland indicates climate influenced methane release during the past ~12,000. Journal of Paleolimnology 48, 27–42. doi: 10.1007/s10933-012-9591-8


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