Sarah Hu

Sarah Hu

Assistant Professor

Microbial ecology, Single-celled microbial eukaryotes (protists), Microbial community diversity, Predator-prey interactions, Food web dynamics, Time-series

  (979) 862-4170

  Eller O&M 606


I am actively recruiting students for my lab for Fall 2023. Please read more on my website, and contact me.

I am a microbial ecologist, biological oceanographer, and data scientist. I am interested in understanding how microorganisms fuel and facilitate the ecological processes that sustain our planet. The marine microbial food web consists of a tangle of complex interactions and I am particularly fascinated by the ecological contributions of unicellular eukaryotes (or protists). Protistan community structure (diversity and composition of species) and their nutritional strategies are reflections of their environment. My group uses a variety of molecular approaches, computational biology, laboratory incubations, and microscopy to understand the innerworkings of the marine microbial eukaryome - from coastal environments, deep-sea hydrothermal vent habitats, or along biogeochemical transition zones in the water column.

Visit my website to learn more.

Selected Publications

  • Hammond, S.W., Lodolo, L., Hu, S.K., & Pasulka, A.L. (In Press) Methodological ‘lenses’ influence the characterization of phytoplankton dynamics in a coastal upwelling ecosystem. Environmental Microbiology Reports.
  • Cohen, N.R., Alexander, H., Krinos, A.I., Hu, S.K., and Lampe, R.H. (2022) Marine Microeukaryote Metatranscriptomics: Sample Processing and Bioinformatic Workflow Recommendations for Ecological Applications. Front Mar Sci 9: 867007.
  • Ollison, G.A., Hu, S.K., Hopper, J.V., Stewart, B.P., Smith, J., Beatty, J.L., et al. (2022) Daily dynamics of contrasting spring algal blooms in Santa Monica Bay (central Southern California Bight). Environmental Microbiology 1462-2920.16137.
  • Tully, B.J., Buongiorno, J., Cohen, A.B., Cram, J.A., Garber, A.I., Hu, S.K., et al. The Bioinformatics Virtual Coordination Network: an open-source and interactive learning environment. (2021) Educ. 6:711618. DOI: 10.3389/feduc.2021.711618
  • Hu, S.K., Herrera, E., Smith, A., Pachiadaki, M.G., Edgcomb, V.P., Sylva, S.P., Chan E.W., Seewald, J.S., German, C.R., & Huber, J.A. (2021) Protistan grazing impacts microbial communities and carbon cycling at deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 118(29). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2102674118
  • Ollison G., Hu, S.K., Mesrop, L.Y., Delong, E. & Caron, D. A. (2021) Come Rain or Shine: Depth Not Season Shapes the Protistan Community at Station ALOHA in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Deep-Sea Res I. 120, 103494. DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr.2021.103494
  • Coesel, S.N., Durham, B.P., Groussman, R.D., Hu, S.K., Caron, D.A., Morales, R.L., et al. (2021) Diel transcriptional oscillations of light-sensitive regulatory elements in open-ocean eukaryotic plankton communities. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 118 (12). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2011038118
  • Krinos, A., Hu, S.K., Cohen, N.R. & Alexander, H. (2021) EUKulele: Taxonomic annotation of the unsung eukaryotic microbes. J Open Source Softw 6(57), 2817.DOI: 10.21105/joss.02817
  • Coenen, A.R., Hu, S.K., Luo, E., Muratore, D., and Weitz, J.S. (2020) A Primer for Microbiome Time-Series Analysis. Front Genet 11: 310. DOI: 10.3389/fgene.2020.00310
  • Boeuf, D., Edwards, B.R., Eppley, J.M., Hu, S.K., Poff, K.E., Romano, A.E., et al. (2019) Biological composition and microbial dynamics of sinking particulate organic matter at abyssal depths in the oligotrophic open ocean. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 116(24): 11824–11832. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1903080116
  • Liu, Z., Mesrop, L.Y., Hu, S.K., & Caron, D.A. (2019) Transcriptome of Thalassicolla nucleata Holobiont Reveals Details of a Radiolarian Symbiotic Relationship. Front Mar Sci 6: 284. DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00284.
  • Pasulka, A., Hu, S.K., Countway, P.D., Coyne, K.J., Cary, S.C., Heidelberg, K.B., & Caron, D.A. (2019) SSU rRNA Gene Sequencing Survey of Benthic Microbial Eukaryotes from Guaymas Basin Hydrothermal Vent. J Eukaryot Microbiol 66(4):637-653. DOI: 10.1111/jeu.12711
  • Caron, D.A. & Hu, S.K. (2019) Are We Overestimating Protistan Diversity in Nature? Trends in Microbiology 27(3): 197–205. DOI: 10.1016/j.tim.2018.10.009
  • Hu, S.K., Liu, Z., Alexander, H., Campbell, V., Connell, P.E., Dyhrman, S.T., et al. (2018) Shifting metabolic priorities among key protistan taxa within and below the euphotic zone. Environ Microbiol 20: 2865–2879.
  • Hu, S.K., Paige E. Connell, Mesrop, L.Y., & Caron, D.A. (2018) A Hard Day’s Night: Diel Shifts in Microbial Eukaryotic Activity in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Front Mar Sci 5:251. DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2018.00351
  • Liu, Z., Hu, S.K., Campbell, V., Tatters, A.O., Heidelberg, K.B., & Caron, D.A. (2017) Single-cell transcriptomics of small microbial eukaryotes: limitations and potential. ISME J.11: 1282–1285.
  • Connell, P.E., Campbell, V., Gellene, A.G., Hu, S.K., & Caron, D.A. (2017) Planktonic food web structure at a coastal time-series site: II. Spatiotemporal variability of microbial trophic activities. Deep Sea Res Part I Oceanogr Res Pap 121: 210–223.
  • Hu, S.K., Campbell, V., Connell, P., Gellene, A.G., Liu, Z., Terrado, R., & Caron, D.A. (2016) Protistan diversity and activity inferred from RNA and DNA at a coastal ocean site in the eastern North Pacific. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 92(4). DOI: 10.1093/femsec/fiw050
  • Hu, S.K., Liu, Z., Lie, A.A.Y., Countway, P.D., Kim, D.Y., Jones, A.C., et al. (2015) Estimating Protistan Diversity Using High-Throughput Sequencing. J Eukaryot Microbiol 62: 688–693. DOI: 1111/jeu.12217
  • Lie, A.A.Y., Liu, Z., Hu, S.K., Jones, A.C., Kim, D.Y., Countway, P.D., et al. (2014) Investigating Microbial Eukaryotic Diversity from a Global Census: Insights from a Comparison of Pyrotag and Full-Length Sequences of 18S rRNA Genes. Appl Environ Microbiol 80(14):4363. DOI: 10.1128/AEM.00057-14


Postdoc Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 2018-2022

Ph.D. Marine Environmental Biology, University of Southern California, 2018

B.S. Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, 2011


2018-2020 Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations Postdoctoral Fellowship

2018 Katrina J. Edwards Memorial Dissertation Award

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