Jena E. Johnson

Assistant Professor

Principal Investigator [CV]

I have long been fascinated by how the history and evolution of life on Earth are tied to the evolving climate and surface chemistry of our planet. I majored in Geobiology at Brown University and pursued a PhD in Geobiology at Caltech. My PhD investigated the evolution of photosynthesis and rise of atmospheric oxygen through the manganese mineral record. During the course of my thesis, I recognized the importance of performing laboratory experiments and studying field analogues in order to correctly interpret the rock record. I continued gaining expertise in linking aquatic chemistry with geomicrobiology in a postdoctoral position at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I began a faculty position in the Earth and Environmental Sciences department at U-Michigan in January, 2018.

Here at Michigan, I am focused on understanding how the evolution of life and environments are recorded in chemical signals safeguarded in the geologic record. We are beginning projects to understand the potential geobiological signals hosted in chemical precipitates in the sedimentary record, and studying microbe-mineral interactions that could lead to the formation of these ancient geobiological signals.

Current Lab Members

Isaac Hinz

Lab Manager

Isaac has been working with Jena since May 2017 on understanding the origin of iron silicate minerals in the rock record. After completing his honors thesis at the University of Colorado under the guidance of Jena and Alexis Templeton (CU-Boulder), Isaac has begun his role as the Microbe-Mineral lab manager at U-Mich in August, 2018! In addition to keeping the lab running, Isaac will be continuing his work on identifying potential biosignatures of microbially-mediated iron silicate precipitation.

Sammy Theuer

Undergraduate Honors Thesis Student

A senior in the Earth & Environmental Sciences department, Sammy is working on understanding how differences in the proportions of Fe(II) and Fe(III) in silica-rich but oxygen-free water leads to the precipitation of different iron minerals. Her thesis will provide a great set of empirical observations to compare with similar minerals on ancient Earth and Mars!

Danielle Ziaja

Undergraduate Researcher

A recent Michigan graduate in Interdisciplinary Physics with a minor in Earth & Environmental Sciences, Danielle is working with Isaac to explore the solid products of iron-silica reactions. This physicist is definitely getting a crash course in wet chemistry!