Jill Banfield

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 the News

April 11, 2016

Wealth of unsuspected new microbes expands tree of life

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.

June 15, 2015

Newfound groups of bacteria are mixing up the tree of life

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.

January 15, 2014

Eel River Observatory seeks clues to watershed’s future

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.

March 15, 2011

Jillian Banfield profiled in L’Oréal-UNESCO video

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

Microbes in the preemie gut

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 to receive Franklin Medal, L'Oreal-UNESCO award

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

Weird, ultra-small microbes turn up in acidic mine drainage

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.