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Laurence Miller

Research Oceanographer

Contact Info

Short Biography

A. Education

1972    B.A., Marine Science, Southampton College, Long Island University

1980    M.S., Geological Science, University of Southern California


B. Professional Experience

May 1984 to Present: Research Oceanographer, National Research Program, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA

Sept. 1981 to May 1984: Oceanographer III, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Jan. 1977 to Sept. 1981: Research and Teaching Assistant, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

April 1973 to Dec. 1976: Research Technician, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY

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Chuang, P.-C., Young, M. B., Dale, A. W., Miller, L. G., Herrera-Silveira, J. A., and Paytan, A.: Methane and sulfate dynamics in sediments from mangrove-dominated tropical coastal lagoons, Yucatán, Mexico, Biogeosciences, 13, 2981-3001, doi:10.5194/bg-13-2981-2016, 2016. [Link]

Baesman, S., Miller, L.G., Wei, J.H., Cho, Y., Matys, E.D., Summons, R.E., Welander, P. V. and Oremland, R.S. 2015. Methane oxidation and molecular characterization of methanotrophs from a former mercury mine impoundment. Microorganisms, 2, 290-309; DOI: 10.3390/microorganisms3020290.

Miller, L.G., Baesman, S.M., and Oremland, R.S. 2015. Stable isotope fractionation during bacterial acetylene fermentation: Potential for life detection in hydrocarbon-rich volatiles of icy planet(oid)s. Astrobiology, 15, DOI: 10.1089/ast.2015.1355.

Switzer Blum, J., Hoeft McCann, S., Bennett, S., Miller, L.G., Stolz, J.R., Stoneburner, B., Saltikov, C., and Oremland, R.S. 2015. A microbial arsenic cycle in sediments of an acidic mine impoundment: Herman Pit, Clear Lake, California. Geomicrobiology Journal, DOI: 10.1080/01490451.2015.1080323 [Link]

Terry, L.R., Kulp, T.R., Wiatrowski, H., Miller, L.G., and Oremland, R.S. 2015. Microbiological oxidation of antimony(III) with oxygen or nitrate by bacteria isolated from contaminated mine sediments. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 81, DOI:10.1128/AEM.01970-15.

 Miller, L.G., Baesman, S. M., Carlström, C.I., Coates, J.D., and  Oremland, R.S.  2014. Methane oxidation linked to chlorite dismutation.  Front. in Microbiol. vol. 5,  article 275, 1-8, doi:  10.3389/fmicb.2014.00275. [Link]

Kulp, T.R., Miller, L.G., Braiotta, F., Webb, S.M., Kocar, B.D., Blum, J.S., and Oremland, R.S. 2014. Microbiological reduction of Sb(V) in anoxic freshwater sediments. Env. Sci. & Tech. vol. 48, 218-226.

Miller, L.G., Baesman, S.M., Kirshtein, J., Voytek, M.A., and Oremland, R.S. 2013. A biogeochemical and genetic survey of acetylene fermentation by environmental samples and bacterial isolates. Geomicrobiol. Journ. vol. 30, 501–516.

Blum, J.S., Kulp, T.R., Han, S., Lanoil, B., Saltikov, C.W., Stolz, J.F., Miller, L.G., and Oremland, R.S. 2012. Desulfohalophilus alkaliarsenatis gen. nov., sp. nov., an extremely halophilic sulfate-and arsenate-respiring bacterium from Searles Lake, California. Extremophiles, vol. 16, 727- 742.

Oremland, R.S., Stolz, J.F., Madigan, M., Hollibaugh, J.T., Kulp, T.R., Hoeft, S.E., Fisher, J, Miller, L.G., Culbertson, C.W., and Asao, M. 2009. Response to comment on “Arsenic (III) fuels anoxygenic photosynthesis in hot spring biofilms from Mono Lake, California”. Science vol. 323, 583d.

Miller, L.G. and Oremland, R.S. 2008. Electricity generation by anaerobic bacteria and anoxic sediments from hypersaline soda lakes. Extremophiles, vol. 12, 837-848.

Kulp, T.R., Hoeft, S.E., Asao, M., Madigan, M.T., Hollibaugh, J.T., Fisher, J.C., Stolz, J.F., Culbertson, C.W., Miller, L.G., and Oremland, R.S. 2008. Arsenic (III) fuels anoxygenic photosynthesis in hot spring biofilms from Mono Lake, California. Science, vol. 321, 967-970.

Miller, L.G. 2007. Book review of “Geothermal biology and geochemistry in Yellowstone National Park, eds. WP Inskeep and TR McDermott”. Geofluids, vol. 7, 270-271.

Schäfer, H., Miller, L.G., Oremland, R.S., and Murrell, J.C. 2006. Bacterial cycling of methyl halides. Adv. in Appl. Microbiol., vol. 61, 307-346.

Kulp, T.R., Hoeft, S.E., Miller, L.G., Saltikov, C., Murphy, J.N., Han, S., Lanoil, B., and Oremland, R.S. 2006, Dissimilatory arsenate and sulfate reduction in sediments of two hypersaline, arsenic-rich soda lakes: Mono and Searles Lakes, California. Appl. and Environm. Microbiol., vol. 72, 6514-6526.

Baesman, S.M., and Miller, L.G. 2005. Laboratory determination of the carbon kinetic isotope effects (KIEs) for reactions of methyl halides with various nucleophiles in solution. Journ. Atmos. Chem., vol. 52, 203-219.

Oremland, R.S., Kulp, T.R., Switzer-Blum, J., Hoeft, S.E., Baesman, S.M., Miller, L.G., and Stolz, J.F. 2005. A microbial arsenic cycle in a salt-saturated, extreme environment: Searles Lake, California. Science, vol. 308, 1305-1308.

McDonald, I.R., Kampfer, P., Warner, K., Connell Hancock, T., Harper, D.B., Murrell, J.C., Miller, L.G., and Oremland, R.S. 2005. Aminobacter ciceronii sp. nov. and Aminobacter liesaraensis sp. nov., isolated from various terrestrial environments. Int. Journ. Syst. & Evol Microbiol., vol. 55, 1827-1832.

Miller, L.G., and Baesman, S.M. 2004. Removing excess methyl iodide from fumigated soil using bacteria. Final report to California Strawberry Commission Project 03-68371, 11 pp.

Miller, L.G., Warner, K.L., Baesman, S.M., Oremland, R.S., McDonald, I.R., Radajewski, S., and Murrell, J.C. 2004. Degradation of methyl bromide and methyl chloride in soil microcosms: Use of stable C isotope fractionation and stable isotope probing to identify reactions and the responsible microorganisms. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, vol. 68, 3271-3283.

Miller, L.G., Baesman, S.M., and Oremland, R.S. 2003. Bioreactors for removing methyl bromide following contained fumigations. Environ. Sci. & Tech., vol. 37, 1698-1704.

Bill, M., Miller, L.G., and Goldstein, A.H. 2002. Carbon isotope fractionation of methyl bromide during agricultural soil fumigations, Biogeochem., vol. 60, 181-190. 

Miller, L.G. and Goodwin, K.D. 2002. Foreword to special issue on biogeochemistry of halomethanes. Biogeochem., vol. 60, 119-120.

Roesler, C.S., Culbertson, C.W., Etheridge, S.M., Goericke, R., Kiene, R.P., Miller, L.G., and Oremland, R.S. 2002. Distribution, production, and ecophysiology of Picosystis strain ML in Mono Lake, California. Limnol. and Oceanogr., vol. 47, 440-452.

Miller, L.G., Kalin, R.M., McCauley, S.E., Hamilton, J.T.G., Harper, D.B., Millet, D.B., Oremland, R.S., and Goldstein, A.H. 2001. Large carbon isotope fractionation associated with oxidation of methyl halides by methylotrophic bacteria. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., USA, vol. 98, 5833-5837.

Kalin, R.M., Hamilton, J.T.G., Harper, D.B., Miller, L.G., Lamb, C., Kennedy, J.T., Downey, A., McCauley, S.E., and Goldstein, A.H. 2001. Continuous flow stable isotope methods for study of δ13C fractionation during halomethane production and degradation. Rapid Comm. in Mass Spectr., vol. 15, 357-362. 

Oremland, R.S., Dowdle, P.R., Hoeft, S., Sharp, J.O., Schaefer, J.K., Miller, L.G., Blum, J.S., Smith, R.L., Bloom, N.S., and Wallschlager, D. 2000. Bacterial dissimilatory reduction of arsenate and sulfate in meromictic Mono Lake, California. Geochim. et Cosmochim. Acta, vol. 64, 3073-3084.

Joye, S.B., Connell, T.L., Miller, L.G., Oremland, R.S., and Jellison, R. 1999. Oxidation of ammonia and methane in an alkaline, saline lake. Limnol. and Oceanogr., vol 44, 178-188.

Miller, L.G., Sasson, C. and Oremland, R.S. 1998. Difluromethane: a new and improved inhibitor of methanotrophy. Appl. and Environm. Microbiol., vol. 64, 4357-4362.

Connell, T.L., Joye, S.B., Miller, L.G., and Oremland, R.S. 1997. Bacterial oxidation of methyl bromide in Mono Lake, California. Env. Sci. & Technol., vol. 31, 1489-1495.

Miller, L.G., Connell, T.L., Guidetti, J.R., and Oremland, R.S. 1997. Bacterial oxidation of methyl bromide in fumigated agricultural soils. Appl. and Environm. Microbiol., vol. 63, 4346-4354.

Miller, L.G. and Aiken, G.R. 1996. The effects of meltwater inflows and moat freezing on mixing in an ice-covered antarctic lake as interpreted from stable isotope and tritium distributions. Limnol. and Oceanogr., vol. 41, 966-976.

Caffrey, J.M., Hammod, D.E., Kuwabara, J.S., Miller, L.G., and Twilley, R.R. 1996. Benthic processes in South San Francisco Bay: The role of organic inputs and bioturbation. Hollibaugh, J.T., ed. “San Francisco Bay: The Ecosystem” AAAS, 425-442.

Caffrey, J.M. and Miller, L.G. 1995. A comparison of two nitrification inhibitors used to measure nitrification rates in estuarine sediments. FEMS Microbiol. Ecol., vol. 17, 213-220.

Oremland, R.S., Miller, L.G., Dowdle, P., Connell, T., and Barkay, T. 1995. Methylmercury oxidative degradation potentials in contaminated and pristine sediments of the Carson River, Nevada.. Appl. and Environm. Microbiol., vol. 61, 2745-2753.

Oremland, R.S., Switzer-Blum, J. Culbertson, C.W., Visscher, P.T., Miller, L.G., Dowdle. P., and Strohmaier, F.E.1994. Isolation, growth, and metabolism of an obligately anaerobic, selenate-respiring bacterium, strain SES-3. Appl. and Environm. Microbiol., vol. 60, 3011-3019.

Oremland, R.S., Miller, LG., Culbertson, C.W., Connell, T.L., and Jahnke, L.L. 1994. Degradation of methyl bromide by methanotrophic bacteria in cell suspensions and soils. Appl. and Environm. Microbiol., vol. 60, 3640-3646.

Oremland, R.S., Miller, L.G. and Strohmaier, F.E. 1994. Degradation of methyl bromide in anaerobic sediments. Env. Sci, And Technol., vol 28, 514-520.

Oremland, R.S. and Miller, L.G. 1993. Biogeochemistry of natural gases in three alkaline, permanently stratified (meromictic) lakes. In D. Howell, ed. “The Future of Energy Gases”, 439-452.

Miller, L.G., Coutlakis, M.D., Oremland, R.S. and Ward, B.B. 1993. Selective inhibition of ammonium oxidation and nitrification linked N2O formation by methyl fluoride and dimethyl ether. Appl. and Environm. Microbiol., vol. 59, 2457-2464.

Smith, R.L., Miller, L.G., and Howes, B.L. 1993. The geochemistry of methane in Lake Fryxell, an amictic, permanently ice-covered, antarctic lake. Biogeochemistry, vol. 21, 95-115.

Oremland, R.S., Miller, L.G., Culbertson, C.W., Robinson, S., Smith, R.L., Lovley, D., Whiticar, M.J., King, G.M., et al. 1993. Aspects of the biogeochemistry of methane in Mono Lake and the Mono Basin of California, USA. In  R.S. Oremland (ed.) The Biogeochemistry of Global Change: Radiative Trace Gases, Chapman & Hall, NY, 705-744.

Miller, L.G., Jellison, R., Oremland, R.S. and Culbertson, C.W., 1993. Meromixis in hypersaline Mono Lake, California 3: Biogeochemical response to stratification and overturn. Limnol. Oceanogr. vol. 38, 1040-1051.

Jellison, R., Miller, L.G., Melack, J.M., and Dana, G.L., 1993.  Meromixis in hypersaline Mono Lake, California 2: Nitrogen fluxes. Limnol. Oceanog., vol. 38, 1020-1039.

Maest, A.S., Pasilis, S.P., Miller, L.G. and Nordstrom, D.K. 1992. Redox geochemistry of arsenic and iron in Mono Lake, California, USA. In Water-Rock Interaction (VII), Kharaka and Maest eds., 507-511.

Oremland, R.S., Steinberg, N.S., Presser, T.S. and Miller, L.G., 1991. In situ bacterial selenate reduction in the agricultural drainage systems of western Nevada. Appl. Environ. Microbiol., vol. 57, 615-617.

Aiken, G., McKnight, D., Wershaw, R. and Miller, L., 1991.  Evidence for the diffusion of aquatic fulvic acid from the sediments of Lake Fryxell, Antarctica.  In Baker, R. ed., Proceedings of the ACS Symposium "Organic Substances in Sediment and Water”, 75-88.

Oremland, R.S., Steinberg, N.A., Maest, A.S., Miller, L.G., and Hollibaugh, J.T., 1990.  Measurement of in situ rates of selenate removal by dissimilatory bacterial reduction in sediments.  Env. Sci. & Technol., vol. 24, 1157-1164.

Oremland, R.S., Hollibaugh, J.T., Maest, A., Presser, T., Miller, L., and Culbertson, C., 1989.  Selenate reduction to elemental selenium by anaerobic bacteria in sediments and culture: Biogeochemical significance of a novel, sulfate-independent respiration.  Appl. Eviron. Microbiol., vol. 55, 2333-2343.

McKnight, D.M., Aiken, G.R., Andrews, E.D., Bowles, E.C., Smith, R.L., Duff, J.M., and Miller, L.G., 1988.  Dissolved organic material in desert lakes in the dry valleys.  Antarct. Journ., vol. 23, 152-153.

Miller, L.G. and Oremland, R.S., 1988.  Methane efflux from the pelagic regions of four lakes.  Global Biogeochem. Cycles, vol. 2, 269-277.

Oremland, R.S., Cloern, J.E., Smith, R.L., Culbertson, C.W., Zehr, J., Miller, L., Cole, B., Harvey, R., Iversen, N., Klug, M., DesMarais, D.J., Rau, G., and Sofer, Z., 1988.  Biogeochemical and microbial processes of Big Soda Lake, Nevada. In Lacustrine Petroleum Source Rocks, K. Kelts, M. Talbot, and A. Fleet, eds., Geol. Soc. of London, Special Publication 40, 59-75.

Oremland, R.S., Miller, L.G., and Whiticar, M. J., 1987.  Sources and flux of natural gas from Mono Lake, California.  Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, vol. 51, 2915-2929.

Kiene, R.P., Oremland, R.S., Catena, A., Miller, L.G., and Capone, D.G., 1986.  Metabolism of reduced methylated sulfur compounds in anaerobic sediments and by a pure culture of an estuarine methanogen.  Appl. Environ. Microbiol., vol. 52, 1037-1045.

Sanchez, A.L., Murray, J.W., Schell, W.R., and Miller, L.G., 1986.  Fallout plutonium in two oxic-anoxic environments.  Limnol. Oceanogr., vol. 31, 1110-1121.

Miller, L.G., Oremland, R.S., and Paulsen S., 1986.  Measurement of N2O reductase activity in aquatic sediments.  Appl. Environ. Microbiol., vol. 51, 18-24.

Hammond, D.E., Fuller, C., Harmon, D., Hartman, B., Korosec, M., Miller, L.G., Rea, R., Warren, S., Berelson, W., and Hager, S.W., 1985.  Benthic fluxes in San Francisco Bay.  Hydrobiologia, vol. 129, 69-90.

Hammond, D.E., Teng, T.L., Miller, L., and Haraguchi, G., 1981.  A search for co-variance among seismicity, groundwater chemistry, and groundwater radon in Southern California.  Geophys. Res. Lett., vol. 8, 445-448.

Simpson, H.J., Trier, R.M., Olsen, C.R., Hammond, D.E., Ege, A., Miller, L., and Melack, J.M., 1980.  Fallout plutonium in an alkaline, saline lake. Science, vol. 207, 1071-1073.

My USGS Science Strategy Areas

Understanding Ecosystems & Predicting Ecosystems Change

Microbial Biogeochemistry of Aquatic Environments

Image of Current Focus for Microbial Biogeochemistry of Aquatic Environments

Acetylene fermentation by bacteria. Acetylene (C2H2) is a trace gas in today’s atmosphere but was much more abundant in early Earth’s history. It is substantially present in the atmospheres of Jupiter, Saturn and Titan and has been found associated with water in the vaporous jets emanating from the south polar region of Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth largest moon. Acetylene fermenting organisms have been identified that may have played a role in the evolution of life on Earth. These organisms synthesize an enzyme, acetylene hydratase, which is unique; its sole function is to degrade acetylene. We discovered several fresh- and saltwater environments where this activity persists, This collaborative project employs culturing and culture-independent techniques to evaluate the diversity of these organisms in nature and their role in degrading other toxic organic compounds, such as TCE.


Stable carbon isotope fractionation of acetylene. The lighter of the two stable isotopes of carbon (12C) is favored by microbes which use C2H2 for food and energy (above). This results in progressive enrichment of the heavier isotope (13C) in the unreacted substrate. I conduct isotope fractionation studies to determine the Kinetic Isotope Effect (KIE) of bacterial acetylene fermentation and it's effect on the isotopic composition of products such as acetaldeyhde, ethanol and acetate.


Perchlorate reduction linked to methane oxidation. Methane (CH4) has been detected at varying concentrations in the atmosphere of Mars. Perchlorate (HClO4) was also recently identified in Martian surface soils during the Phoenix expedition. I investigate ways that microbial perchlorate reduction may be linked to the oxidation of methane in laboratory microcosms, with the idea that these compounds may be bioenergeticaly linked on the surface of Mars.


Arsenic Cycling in Hypersaline Lakes: Field Studies. Arsenic can be an important contaminant in drinking water. Our work characterizes the activities of naturally occuring bacteria that reduce and/or oxidize arsenic. These studies are highly recognized, judging by the impact of papers published in high profile journals and the publicity resulting from featuring our research in two national television documentaries. See left for a list of some of the publications resulting from these studies. For further information on this topic look under 'Geomicrobiology' within  the USGS Microbiology Website



Arsenic Cycling in Hypersaline Lakes: Microbial Fuel Cells. Energy stored in organic matter and reduced inorganic compunds may be recovered within microbial fuel cells (MFCs). MFCs operate like a battery, with an anode and a cathode separated by a membrane. MFCs capitalize on the ability of bacteria to facilitate transfer of electrons to the anode. We found that arsenate respiring bacteria from Mono Lake and Searles Lake werecapable of generating electricity. This was the first use of MFCs to demonstrate electricity production in extreme hypersaline environments and could help design life detection experiments for Mars or elsewhere. 

Additional descriptions of projects that I am involved with can be found, listed under my name, on the USGS Microbiology website

Awards and Committee Membership


Performance Award, USGS: 2007

Antarctic Service Award, NSF: 1988, 1990

Superior Service Award, USGS: 2003



American Geophysical Union,

American Association for the Advancement of Science,

International Society on Environmental Biogeochemistry (International Committee 1999-2017, National Committee for the 2005 meeting in Jackson, WY),

Contact Information

Laurence Miller
345 Middlefield Road
Menlo Park, CA 94025
650-329-4463 - Fax
650-400-1953 - Mobile
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