Erik Pelve

Post Doc

Archaea are not bacteria, but their fundamental differences are masked behind seemingly similar properties. It wasn’t until we could compare the two groups on a molecular level we noticed how unlike each other they are. My driving research question is how the unique cell biology of archaea affects their behaviour on an evolutionary and ecological scale.


I am an Uppsala biologist from the start. I was as undergraduate student at the Biology technology program at the Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU), while also taking courses in ecology and evolution at Uppsala University (UU). I did my master project in Rolf Bernander’s lab at Uppsala university, cloning cell cycle regulated genes from Sulfolobus acidocaldarius for antibody production and immuno-staining, and continued this work as a PhD student which led to one of the two papers describing the crenarchaeal cell division system Cdv/ESCRT.

At this time, high throughput DNA sequencing became more available and my later papers reflected this development, shifting methods from microarray to sequencing. I also grew interested in the newly described Thaumarchaea, mapping the cell cycle of Nitrosopumilus maritimus and asking myself how much of what we thought we knew about archaea was just an effect of undersampling.

My postdoc was at MIT in Edward DeLong’s lab where I used a combination of single cell genomics and metagenomics to study bacteria driving carbon transport in the ocean from the photic zone to deeper layers, which is usually known as the carbon pump. Not forgetting archaea, during my return year to the Limnology program at Uppsala University I used the same methods to study thaumarchaea from low oxygen zones in the Pacific Ocean and the Baltic Sea, looking into effects of salinity on strain diversification.

Current Research

Korarchaeota have been known as a separate archaeal phyla, from amplicons for two decades, and enrichment and genome annotation for one decade. Despite this, all our knowledge of the group comes from one single strain. I work together with Jimmy Saw to study newly assembled metagenomic bins of korarchaea in order to shed light on their genome content and evolutionary history.

Teaching and outreach

One important aspect of research is communication, and I am a great believer in teaching and science communication as tools for professional development of both students and researchers. To that end, I am responsible for an introductory course in Cell- and Microbiology. I regularly involve myself in outreach events at local schools, museums and popular science oriented societies. I also organise the archaea online journal club and run the archaeal outreach twitter account @thirddomain. My personal blog is here.