Research Interests Dr. Teresa Catalá


  • Ocean biogeochemistry
  • Marine dissolved organic matter
  • Recalcitrant dissolved organic matter
  • Microbial production of dissolved organic matter throughtout the thermohaline circulation
  • Dissolved organic matter with bioactive potential

Main research interests

My main research has been focused on the carbon storage in the dark global ocean. Microorganisms play a crucial role in sequestering carbon in the ocean. By transforming labile organic materials into recalcitrant materials, a process that is known the “Microbial Carbon Pump”, they contribute into the builp-up of one of the largest pools of reduced carbon on Earth: the dissolved organic matter (DOM). The understanding of its generation and its role in carbon sequestration is crucial to assess its relevance in the context of the global carbon cycle. 

My participation in global cruises during my PhD thesis has allowed me to track the in situ production of chromophoric and fluorescent DOM along the thermohaline circulation. After calculating their net production/consumption rates and their turnover times, we demonstrated that these fractions contribute substantially to the global oceanic carbon sequestration and are good tracers of the microbial production of recalcitrant DOM in the global ocean.

Once we have realised that most of the myriads of different molecules that constitute the DOM pool remain in the ocean for centuries/thousand of years, I find of interest to invest time in isolating some of these recalcitrant exometabolites and develop new products of interest from the marine life that can have potential uses for human wellbeing.

To promote this new research line, framed on the novel ‘blue growth’ concept, I am now working in the ICBM-MPI Bridging Group (Oldenburg University, Germany) with a postdoctoral Marie Curie fellowship, which aims at discovering those DOM components with bioactive potential. For the aim of this project, namely “Dark Ocean Cosmeceuticals (DOC): The cosmetical and pharmaceutical potential of marine dissolved organic matter”, we will use the latest state-of-the-art analytical technologies for natural complex mixtures, i.e the ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry (15 Tesla FT-ICR-MS) and multidimensional NMR (600 MHz, microcryoprobe). The subsequent selection and sharing of the most promising bioactive groups with cosmetic companies will be done. In fact, a direct collaboration with one of them has been already established.