Rachel L. Simister

My research interests span the broad field of microbial interactions and ecology, incorporating varied disciplines such as molecular biology, phylogenetics, biogeochemistry and biotechnology. My work is highly interdisciplinary, centring on the analysis of microbial communities from a wide variety of environments and putting these comparisons in a temporal and spatial context. My research focuses on both free-living and host-associated bacteria and archaeal communities, as well as eukaryotic (fungal) microbial communities. My ultimate goal is to understanding how microbes interact with their environment and in particular, how biogeochemical variables shape community structure and function.


Postdoctoral Fellow


·       Linking microbial genomic capacity to geochemical process in the deep terrestrial biosphere.  Measuring trace metal isotopes in Indonesian lake sediments to learn about climate evolution           of the Indo-Pacific warm pool (https://www.facebook.com/towutidrilling/)

·       Elucidating biogeochemical cycles in the Archean oceans (Kabuno Bay, East Africa; Matano and Towuti Lake, Indonesia).

·       Mapping the global methanome

·       Microbial Community Structure and Function in Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids Associated with BC Shale Gas

·       Exploring for mineral deposits with molecular microbial fingerprints

·       Using modern “omic” techniques to prevent, diagnose, and treat biofilm induced breast implant failure.







Bray, M.S., Wu, J., Reed, B.C., Kretz, C.B., Belli, K.M., Simister, R.L., Henny, C., Stewart, F.J., DiChristina, T.J., Brandes, J.A. and Fowle, D.A (2017). Shifting microbial communities sustain multiyear iron reduction and methanogenesis in ferruginous sediment incubations. Geobiology.

Thompson, K.J., Simister, R.L., Hahn, A.S., Hallam, S.J. and Crowe, S.A., 2017. Nutrient acquisition and the metabolic potential of photoferrotrophic Chlorobi. Frontiers in Microbiology8, p.1212.

Crowe, S.A., Hahn, A.S., Morgan-Lang, C., Thompson, K.J., Simister, R.L., Llirós, M., Hirst, M. and Hallam, S.J., (2017). Draft genome sequence of the pelagic photoferrotroph Chlorobium phaeoferrooxidans. Genome announcements5(13), pp.e01584-16.

White, H.K., Wang, C.H., Williams, P.L., Findley, D.M., Thurston, A.M., Simister, R.L., Aeppli, C., Nelson, R.K. and Reddy, C.M., (2016). Long-term weathering and continued oxidation of oil residues from the Deepwater Horizon spill. Marine pollution bulletin113(1), pp.380-386.

Russell, JM., Bijaksana, S., Vogel., H  [et al, including Simister, RL] (2016). The Towuti Drilling Project:        paleoenvironments, biological evolution, and geomicrobiology of a tropical Pacific lake. Scientific Drilling doi:10.5194/sd-21-29-2016.

Steinert, G., Taylor, MW., Deines, P., Simister, RL., Voogd, NJ., Hoggard, MJ and Schupp, PJ (2016). In four shallow and mesophotic tropical reef sponges from Guam the microbial community largely depends on host identity. PeerJ 4, e1936

Simister, R.L., E.W. Antzis, H.K. White (2016).  Examining the diversity of microbes in a deep-sea coral community impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Deep Sea Research Part II Special Issue, The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem: Before, During, and After the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2015.01.010

Simister, R.L., Poutasse, C.M., Thurston, A.M., Reeve, J.L., Baker, M.C and White, H.K (2015).                                        Degradation of oil by fungi isolated from Gulf of Mexico beaches.  Marine pollution bulletin. doi:                        10.1016/j.marpolbul.2015.08.029.

Simister, R.L., Taylor, M.W., Rogers, K.M., Schupp, P.J and Deines, P. Temporal molecular and isotopic analysis of active bacterial communities in two New Zealand sponges. (2013) FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 85, 195-209.

Fan, L., Lui, M., Simister, R.L., Webster, N.S and Thomas, T.  Marine microbial symbiosis heats up: the phylogenetic and functional response of a sponge holobiont to thermal stress. (2013) ISME Journal doi: 10.1038/ismej.2012.165

Simister, R.L., Deines, P., Botté, E.S., Webster, N.S and Taylor, M.W.  Sponge-specific clusters revisited: a comprehensive phylogeny of sponge-associated microorganisms.  (2012) Environmental Microbiology 14:517-524

Simister, R.L., Taylor, M.W., Tsai, P., Fan, L., Bruxner, T.J., Crowe, M.L and Webster, N.S.  Thermal stress responses in the bacterial biosphere of the Great Barrier Reef sponge, Rhopaloeides odorabile. (2012). Environmental Microbiology doi:10.1111/1462-2920.12010

Simister, R.L., Taylor, M.W., Tsai, P and Webster, N.S.  Sponge-microbe associations survive high nutrients and temperatures. (2012) PLoS one doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052220

Taylor, M.W., Tsai, P., Simister, R.L., Deines, P., Botte, E.S., Ericson, G., Schmitt, S and Webster, N.S.  Sponge-specific' bacteria are widespread (but rare) in diverse marine environments. (2012) ISME Journal doi:10.1038/ismej.2012.111

Webster, N.S., Luter, H.M., Soo, R.M., Botté, E.S., Simister R.L., Abdo, D and Whalan, S.  Same but different: symbiotic bacterial associations in GBR sponges.  (2012) Frontiers in Microbiology, ISSN 1664-302X

Simister, R. L., Schmitt, S and Taylor, M.W. Evaluating methods for the preservation and extraction of DNA and RNA for analysis of microbial communities in marine sponges. (2011) Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 397:38-43.


The University of St Andrews, Scotland
Degree conferred: Bachelor of Science in Biology, First Class Honours, 2008

The University of Auckland, New Zealand
Degree conferred: PhD in Microbiology, 2013
Thesis title: The microbial ecology of marine sponge-associated microorganisms.


University of British Columbia, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
(May 2015 – current)
Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Geomicrobiology

Haverford College, Department of Chemistry
(May 2013 – May 2015)
Postdoctoral researcher in Microbial Genomics in collaboration with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.