Jeffrey Morris headshot.

Assistant Professor This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Campbell Hall 253
(205) 934-9498

Research and Teaching Interests: Experimental Evolution, Phytoplankton Ecophysiology, Discovery-based Microbiology Education

Office Hours: By appointment


  • B.S., Kennesaw State University, Biology
  • Ph.D., University of Tennessee, Microbiology

Dr. Morris studied aquatic ecology with Joseph Dirnberger at Kennesaw State University in North Georgia as an undergraduate before moving into marine microbiology during his graduate studies at the University of Tennessee under Dr. Erik Zinser. He was a NASA Astrobiology Institute postdoctoral fellow working in Richard Lenski’s lab at Michigan State University until 2014, where he studied the role of reductive evolution in structuring microbial communities.

Jeff is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He brews his own beer and mead and entertains himself in his spare time listening to very loud and unpleasant music. He’s very happily married to an organic farmer and has two children, Hippolyta and Eirik. Jeff Tweets about microbiology, evolution, and academic life at @ASDarwinist.

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Research Interests

Our research focuses on the base of the marine food web — microbial photosynthetic organisms called phytoplankton. We’re interested in how ecology and evolution intertwine to determine these organisms’ fates, and consequently, the fates of the vast communities they feed.

Our researchers make organisms evolve in the lab. We also get on boats and study our favorite green critters in their native habitats: some of the most exotic environments in the world. We leverage our skills in molecular biology and computation to try to predict what our world will look like 100 years from now.

Ongoing projects in the lab include experimental investigations of the Black Queen Hypothesis, which is a new theory of evolution that predicts that cooperation can evolve in communities that depend on “leaky” biological functions. We’re also interested in using laboratory evolution to find out how quickly important marine algal species can adapt to the changes humans are causing to their environments. One very new direction is the use of polar ice cores to find microbial fossils that allow us to study evolution over the past 100,000 years or so, including how bacteria have adapted to previous bouts of climate change (such as the ice ages). We’re very open-minded — if you’ve got research interests in microbial evolution and are looking for a lab to work in, send us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and tell us your crazy ideas!

Recent Courses

  • BY 271: Biology of Microorganisms

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Academic Distinctions and Professional Societies

  • Harold C. Bold Award, 2010
  • Phycological Society of America (PSA)
  • American Society for Microbiology (ASM)
  • Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO)
  • Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE)