Niko Finke

I am an earth system scientist with a strong background in geochemistry, microbiology, and ecology. My primary research interests lie at the intersection of these fields, particularly where microbial ecology and evolution influence, and are influenced by, biogeochemistry. The combination of classical approaches and techniques from geochemistry and microbiology with constantly evolving methods in molecular biology is enabling rapid progress in understanding the complex interactions of microbes with their chemical environment, over time scales ranging from seconds to geologic time. What excites me about this area of research is the possibility to use detailed studies of modern ecosystems as a key to understanding the co-evolution of Earth and its biosphere, both in its trajectory to this point and in forward-looking global change scenarios. My ultimate career goals are to improve our understanding of the fundamental links between biological evolution and environmental change and to evaluate the capacity of microbial communities to adapt to and buffer environmental change or, conversely, to drive it.


Research Associate

Current Thesis Topic

The role of volatile fatty acids and hydrogen in the degradation of organic matter in marine sediments.


  • The environmental impact of shale gas fracking and remediation of backflow water
  • Effectiveness and toxicology of production water additives during shale gas fracking
  • Aerobic methane production and methane cycling in surface waters
  • Methane sources in Lake Kivu, Africa
  • Biogeochemistry of microbial mats as analogs of ancient ecosystems


Max-Planck-Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany
(12/1999 – 4/2003)
PhD student; Advisor: Prof. Bo Barker Jørgensen

Departments of biology and geology, University of Bremen, Germany
(4/1995 – 10/1999)
Biology major: microbiology; minor: molecular biology and ecology      Geology major: geochemistry and hydrology
Diplom (eq. MS) biology and geology

Department of biology and geology, Institute of Technology of North Rhine-Westphalia (RWTH) Aachen, Germany
(9/1991 – 3/1995)
Vordiplom (eq. BS) biology and geology


University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
(5/2015 – current)
Research Associate

Geochemical Consultant
(10/2013 – current)

Hydrocarbon exploration on industry cruises, teaching geochemical university courses

Department of Marine Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, Ga, USA
(4/2011 – 1/2014)

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Head of Radio Isotope Lab
NSF Projects “Degrading Off-Shore Permafrost as a Current and Potential Source of Atmospheric Methane” and “The East Siberian Arctic Shelf as a Source of Atmospheric Methane: First approach to quantitative assessment”

Nordic Center for Earth Evolution – NordCEE, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark 
(10/2008 – 2/2011)
PostDoc - Marie Curie Outgoing International Fellowship returning phase project “BIOSUMM – Biosignal formation: the role of the sulfur cycle in microbial mats”