Pfister Lab

Welcome to Cathy Pfister’s website

I am a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution, The Committee of Evolutionary Biology, and the co-Director of The Microbiome Center at the University of Chicago

New Publications and Events in the Lab

Multiple functions are provided by microbes, and dissolved organic carbon are provided by kelp and seagrasses

Khashiff Miranda and I led this search for microbial function across macrophytes, including nifH gene discovery in surfgrasses!

2022. Miranda K, BL Weigel, E Fogarty I Veseli, A. Murat Eren, A  Giblin, and CA Pfister. The diversity and functional capacity of microbes associated with coastal macrophytes. mSystems.

pdf access


Casey Richards is a 2022 Pat Tillman Scholar.
Congratulations Casey!

Thanks to the Pat Tillman Foundation and its support of US Veterans. 

A commentary on the global study of the seagrass Zostera marina by Duffy et al. History matters when understanding differences among Atlantic and Pacific Ocean basins.

2022. Pfister, CA. The evolutionary past and the uncertain future of foundational species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A commentary on this cool paper: Duffy et al. 2022. A Pleistocene legacy structures variation in modern seagrass ecosystems. PNAS. Link


The microbial metagenome of the bull kelp Nereocystis is published!

Brooke Weigel led this amazing investigation into the microbial diversity and functions of the bull kelp metagenome,

2022. Weigel, BL, Miranda K, Fogarty E, Watson, A, Pfister CA. Functional insights into the kelp microbiome from metagenome assembled genomes. mSystems.



New paper with Jessica Mark Welch’s group on visualizing the kelp microbiome. See microbial diversity on the bull kelp.

see the Video Byte on visualizing the kelp microbiome!

2022. Ramirez-Puebla, ST, Weigel BL, Jack L, Schlundt C, Pfister CA, Mark Welch JL. Spatial organization of the kelp microbiome at micron scales. Microbiome.10(52) link:

Khashiff Miranda leads an in situ experimental study showing macroalgae have increased carbon turnover compared with surfgrass. Link

2021. Miranda, K., Weigel, B.L., McCoy, S.J., Pfister, C.A. Differential impacts of alternate primary producers on carbon cycling. Ecology 102.


Kelp studies and restoration featured in a Seattle Times article

Weigel & Pfister. 2021.The dynamics and stoichiometry of dissolved organic carbon release by kelp, Ecology

Brooke leads an experimental study, using stable isotope analyses, that shows that the bull kelp Nereocystis releases 16% of recently fixed carbon as dissolved organic carbon. Link

Bitter, Kapsenberg, Silliman, Gattuso, Pfister. Magnitude and predictability of pH fluctuations shape plastic responses to ocean acidification. 2021. The American Naturalist 186:582–593.

Mark Bitter leads an experimental study that shows that populations differ in gene expression plasticity in response to fluctuating pH. Mussels from habitats with large pH fluctuations and low predictability display reduced phenotypic plasticity.

Bios 20196 - Keeping ecology outdoors!

Kudos to our Ecology class for safe and fun outdoor labs in Fall 2020 and 2021. Read the UChicago story here