Jeffrey Morris headshot.

Associate 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 is a microbiologist whose research focuses on the ecology and evolution of marine bacteria. Current work in the Morris Lab, funded by the NSF and the Simons Foundation, is focused on the interactions between algae and heterotrophic bacteria in the ocean, and how these complex interrelationships are evolving under climate change. Dr. Morris is also the director of the ROSE Network, a NSF-funded research coordination network focused on improving undergraduate biology education in both 4-year and community college institutions.

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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. There are also diverse other projects ongoing, led largely by the ingenuity and interests of our graduate students, ranging from education research to nanotech medical applications. 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
    • BY271: Biology of Microorganisms
    • BY405: Microbial Physiology
    • BY407: Microbial Ecology
    • BY429: Evolution
  • Select Publications
    • Morris, JJ. What is the hologenome concept of evolution? F1000 Research 1664. Illustration by Sarah J. Adkins
    • Adkins, Sarah J, Rachel K Rock, and JJ Morris. 2018. Interdisciplinary STEM education reform: dishing out art in a microbiology laboratory. FEMS Microbiology Letters 365(1):fnx245
    • JJ Morris and E Schniter. 2017. Black Queen markets: commensalism, dependency, and the evolution of cooperative specialization in human society. Journal of Bioeconomics 10.1007/s10818-017-9263-x
    • Hennon, Gwenn MM, JJ Morris, ST Haley, ER Zinser, Alexander R Durrant, Elizabeth M Entwistle, T Dokland, and ST Dyhrman. 2017. The impact of elevated CO2 on Prochlorococcus and microbial interactions with ‘helper’ bacterium Alteromonas. ISME J doi:10.1038/ismej.2017.189
    • Estrela, S., B. Kerr, and JJ Morris. 2016. Transitions in individuality through symbiosis. Current Opinion in Microbiology 31: 191-198
    • Morris, J.J., Z.I. Johnson, S.W. Wilhelm, and E.R. Zinser. 2016. Diel regulation of hydrogen peroxide defenses by open ocean microbial communities. J. Plank. Res. 38: 1103-1114
    • Dutkiewicz, S.D., J.J. Morris, M.J. Follows, J. Scott, O. Levitan, S.T. Dyhrman, and I. Berman-Frank. 2015. Impact of ocean acidification on the structure of future phytoplankton communities. Nature Climate Change 5: 1002-1006.
    • Morris, J.J. 2015. Black Queen evolution: the role of leakiness in structuring microbial communities. Trends In Genetics 31: 475-482.
    • Morris, J. J., R. E. Lenski and E. R. Zinser (2012). The Black Queen Hypothesis: evolution of dependencies through adaptive gene loss. mBio 3(2): e00036-00012.
  • Academic Distinctions and Professional Societies

    Academic Distinctions:

    • Simons Foundation Marine Microbial Ecology and Evolution Early Career Research Fellow (2019-2022)
    • Communications Director, Phycological Society of America (2016-2022)
    • NASA Astrobiology Institute Postdoctoral Fellow (2013-2014)
    • Harold C. Bold Award (2010)

    Professional Societies:

    • Heterodox Academy
    • Phycological Society of America (PSA)
    • American Society for Microbiology (ASM)
    • Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO)
    • Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER)
    • Faculty of 1000
  • Graduate Students

    Current Graduate Students:

    • Sarah Adkins (Ph.D. student, NSF Graduate Research Fellow)
    • Melissa Walker (Ph.D. student, NSF Graduate Research Fellow)
    • Marcelo Malisano Barreto Filho (Ph.D. student)
    • Matthew Kuhl (M.S. Student, Plan I)
    • Jake Cantrell (M.S. Student, Plan II)

    Former Graduate Students:

    • Julian Jackson (M.S. Student, Plan II, currently in dental school at Boston University)

    Current Postdoctoral Associates:

    • Penny Carroll (ROSE Postdoctoral Fellow)
    • Zhiying Lu
    • Anuradha Goswami