The faculty involved in geomicrobiology research at Appalachian State University all have an interdisciplinary science background involving deep sea research and exploration, and have taken their work out of extreme marine environments (deep sea hydrothermal vents) and transferred it to extreme terrestrial subsurface systems (caves), and even have their sights set on extreme extraterrestrial environments (Mars).  There is no place we won’t go!

 Dr. Suzanna Bräuer

Suzanna Bräuer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at Appalachian State University.  She is a microbiologist whose work includes microbial ecology of cave systems (particularly manganese oxidizing bacterial communities), the role of anthropogenic impact on microbial communities, and microbial methane production in peat bogs.

 Dr. Sarah Carmichael

Sarah Carmichael is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geology at Appalachian State University.  She studies the mineralogy of manganese ore deposits and the characteristics of manganese biominerals in caves, in addition to her work on Si-deficient volcanic rocks and the geochemistry of mass extinctions. Her research heavily involves scanning and transmission electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, and spectroscopic techniques.

 Dr. Cara Santelli

Cara Santelli is an Assitant Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Minnesota, after spending many years as a Research Geologist and Curator in the Department of Mineral Sciences at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. Her work examines the impact of microbial activity on a wide variety of geological processes such as biomineralization and weathering, metal redox transformations, fungal biomineralization processes, environmental geochemistry, and remediation of sites impacted by acid mine drainage pollution.


Dr. Yongli Gao

Yongli Gao is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at San Antonio.  He is a karst hydrogeologist who specializes in basin-scale hydrologic simulations, sinkhole hazards, and paleoclimate and environmental reconstruction through speleothem geochemistry. 

Dr. Denise Akob

Denise Akob is a geomicrobiologist at the United States Geological Survey who specializes in the relationship between microorganisms and their environments.

Current and Former Students

Mara Cloutier (M.S. Biology - 2016)

MS Thesis Title: Microbial Community Analysis Coupled With Geochemical Studies Reveal Factors Affecting Biotic Mn (II) Oxidation In Situ

Mara is currently at Penn State University working on her PhD in Soil Sciences.

Bryan Zorn (M.S. Biology - 2014) 

MS Thesis Title: Illumina sequencing of fungal assemblages reveals compositional shifts as a result of nutrient loading within cave sediments

Bryan is currently working as a Research Specialist at the Marsico Lung Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Joshua Feierstein (B.S. Geology - 2015)

Josh works for Geo-Technology Associates, Inc. in Raleigh, NC as a geologist.

   Kelley Burns (B.S. Biology - 2014)

Mary Jane Carmichael (M.S. Biology - 2012) 

Thesis Title: Geomicrobiology of Ferromanganese Deposits in Caves of the Upper Tennessee River Basin

Mary Jane received her Ph.D. in Biology from Wake Forest University in 2017, and will begin working as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology at Hollins University in Fall 2017.

She won Appalachian State University's 2013 Cratis Williams Thesis Award, and the American Association of University Women's 2016-2017 AAUW Dissertation Fellowship.


Leigh Anne Roble (B.S. Geology - 2012)

BS Thesis Title: Manganese Oxidation by Fungi in Karst Environments 

Leigh Anne is currently working as a hydrogeologist with the Department of Health and Environmental Control in Columbia, South Carolina after receiving her M.S. in Geochemistry at the University of Maryland in 2014.


Amanda Strom (B.S. Biology - 2011)

Amanda is now a critical care RN in Ventura, CA after graduating from Appalachian and receiving her BSN from Winston Salem State University.


Suzanna Bräuer

Sarah Carmichael

General Inquiries
Sarah Carmichael

Student Opportunities
Suzanna Bräuer

QEP Global Learning