Jill Banfield
Professor of Environmental Science, Policy & Management, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Department of Earth and Planetary Science

Research Expertise and Interest

nanoscience, Bioremediation, genomics, biogeochemistry, carbon cycling, geomicrobiology, MARS, minerology


Research involves the study of how microorganisms exert fundamental control over the chemistry of their environments, and how they in turn are affected by the geochemistry of their surroundings. Integrates the mineralogical, geochemical and microbiological examination of natural and contaminated habitats through laboratory-based studies and modeling. Current projects include microorganisms' roles in acid mine drainage; in soil formation through physical and chemical weathering; and the search for life on other planets (particularly Mars) using mineralogical biosignatures.

In Research News

Markita del Carpio Landry and Michel Maharbiz
February 8, 2017

Thirteen UC Berkeley faculty have been chosen by the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub to receive up to $1.5 million each over the next five years to conduct cutting-edge biomedical research — with no strings attached.

lab stock photo
January 24, 2017

An initiative launched two years ago by UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco to use CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing to develop new disease therapies is expanding into research on the planet’s major crops and poorly understood microbiomes.

tree of life
October 24, 2016

One of the most detailed genomic studies of any ecosystem to date has revealed an underground world of stunning microbial diversity, and added dozens of new branches to the tree of life.

April 11, 2016

Researchers at UC Berkeley, who have discovered more than 1,000 new types of bacteria and Archaea over the past 15 years lurking in Earth’s nooks and crannies, have dramatically rejiggered the tree to account for these microscopic new life forms.

Tree of Life graphic
June 15, 2015

Jill Banfield, professor of EPS and ESPM, and grad student Christopher Brown discovered a large number of new groups or phyla of bacteria, suggesting that the branches on the tree of life need some rearranging. The more than 35 new phyla equal in number all the plant and animal phyla combined.

Numerous hairlike appendages radiating from the surface of a bacteria cell
February 27, 2015

Scientists have captured the first detailed microscopy images of ultra-small bacteria that are believed to be about as small as life can get. The research was led by scientists from Berkeley Laboratory and UC Berkeley.

January 15, 2014

University of California, Berkeley, scientists will receive $4,900,000 over the next five years to study the nearly 10,000 square kilometer Eel River watershed in Northern California and how its vegetation, geology and topography affect water flow all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

October 1, 2013

The key to a better understanding of the carbon cycle, the flow of contaminants, even the sustainable growth of biofuel crops, starts with the ground beneath your feet. More specifically, it starts with the genomes of the microbes that live in the water and sediment beneath your feet.

September 27, 2012

UC Berkeley scientists have dug into the soil of a heavy metal contaminated site to analyze the genes of the underground microbial community in hopes of finding ways to help improve the microbes’ ability to remediate toxic metal contamination.

July 29, 2011

But her work is vast in its scope and impact. So vast, in fact, that her discoveries have implications for space, the human body, and nearly everything in between.

March 15, 2011

UC Berkeley’s Jillian Banfield was named the 2011 North American Laureate at the 13th Annual L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards ceremony in Paris on March 3, which included the screening of a video interview with Banfield discussing her research and philosophy of science.

January 13, 2011

UC Berkeley scientist Jill Banfield, with colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh and Stanford University, have for the first time sequenced and reconstructed the genomes of most of the microbes in the gut of a premature newborn and documented how the microbe populations changed over time. Banfield and pediatric surgeon Michael Morowitz hope that characterizing gut microbes of normal and sick infants could lead to cause of necrotizing enterocolitis in preemies.

November 9, 2010

Jillian Banfield, a biogeochemist and geomicrobiologist, will receive two prestigious awards – the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth and Environmental Science and the L-Oréal-UNESCO "For Women in Science" award – for her groundbreaking work on how microbes alter rocks and interact with the natural world.

May 3, 2010

For nearly a decade, Jillian Banfield and her UC Berkeley colleagues have been studying the microbe community that lives in one of the most acidic environments on Earth: the drainage from a former copper mine in Northern California. One group of these microbes seems to be smaller, and weirder, than any other known, free-living organism.

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