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Hinrichs Lab - Research

The Hinrichs Lab is studying the interactions between microbial life and element cycles. We are particularly interested in which and how microbes shape the carbon cycle and seek to understand the related environmental consequences. In order to identify and ideally quantify microbial processes, we study the information encoded in the distributions and isotopic compositions of organic biomarker molecules. We combine analyses of environmental samples with experimental, lab-based approaches. Our current research foci encompass the marine deep biosphere, methane biogeochemistry, life in extreme environments, development of new analytical protocols for the analysis of organic trace constituents in geological sample matrices, prokaryotic membrane lipid taxonomy, and the study of paleoenvironments.
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Chronological list of our peer-reviewed publications with cross-links for the download of pdf files.


Biomarkers are organic molecules that occur in modern or ancient environments and can be traced back to a biological origin. We use various biomarkers to study biosphere-geosphere interactions.

Biogeochemical processes and carbon cycle

Organic geochemistry helps to unravel how microorganisms catalyze, mediate and influence important reactions in geologic processes.

Deep biosphere

Only recently a wide deep biosphere has been discovered below the seafloor. We study its inhabitants, their metabolic capabilities and their role in the global carbon cycle.

Paleo studies

Biomarkers can be used to reconstruct paleo seasurface temperatures and land-sea-interactions.


We analyze trace concentrations of organic molecules in complex sample matrices with the help of dedicated procedures for sample preparation and state-of-the-art instrumentation for detection and identification.