Originally from California, Professor DeLong studied biology at Santa Rosa Junior College and obtained an A.S. degree. He continued his education at the University of California, Davis where he earned a B.S. degree in bacteriology. He subsequently moved to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where he received a PhD. in marine biology after finishing doctoral work with Art Yayanos. DeLong completed his postdoctoral training at Indiana University in Bloomington with Norman Pace, where he surveyed communities of picoplankton via DNA sequencing. Before arriving at MIT, Professor DeLong was a professor at the University California, Santa Barbara and a senior scientist at Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
Microbial life has been integral to the history and function of life on Earth for over 3.5 billion years. As such, microbes have evolved to be the fundamental engines that drive the cycles of energy and matter on Earth, past and present. Additionally, microbes represent the single largest source of evolutionary and biochemical diversity on the planet. Despite their significance, our understanding of the evolution and ecology, and the structure and function of natural microbial communities is limited both conceptually and technologically. Yet the potential of this vast reservoir of genetic and biochemical diversity is enormous, from the perspective of both basic knowledge creation, as well as that of synthetic applications. For these reasons, a major focus of the DeLong lab centers on devising and applying new approaches to describe, quantify and model the complexity of natural microbial assemblages, in particular bacteria and archaea, and understand its natural significance and applied potential.
The DeLong lab is currently engaged in applying contemporary genomic technologies to dissect complex microbial assemblages. While biotic processes that occur within natural microbial communities are diverse and complex, much of this complexity is encoded in the nature, identity, structure, and dynamics of interacting genomes in situ. This genomic information can now be rapidly and generically extracted from the genomes of co-occurring microbes in natural habitats, using standard genomic technologies. The group is now exploring and applying these and related technologies, to better describe and exploit the genetic, biochemical, and metabolic potential that is contained in the natural microbial world. The central focus is on marine systems, due to the fundamental environmental significance of the oceans, as well their suitability for enabling development of new technologies, methods, and theory.