Dr Michael Cunliffe

Dr Michael Cunliffe

Associate Professor in Marine Microbiology

School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)


·       Programme Lead MRes Marine Biology(2017- )

·       MBA-based coordinator of the MResMarine Biology programme (2014-2017)

·       MRes Marine Biology 

-   MBAM5107Molecular and Cellular Marine Biology (Module Lead)

-   MBAM5106Advanced Marine Biology  (Module Lead)

-   MBAM5108Ecology and Conservation  (Module Lead)

·       BSc Marine Biology programmes 

-   MBIO322Marine Microbiology - Ecology and Applications (Module lead 2017- )


Lecturer in Marine Microbiology (Joint Appointment with MBA) - School of Biological and Marine Sciences

MBA Research Fellow - Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Honorary Senior Lecturer - School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia 

2005-2009  - Postdoctoral Research Associate - School of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick

PhD Microbiology - Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester
MSc Pollution and Environmental Control - Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester
BSc (Hons) Environmental Biology - School of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool

Professional membership

International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME)
Society for General Microbiology (SGM)
Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom (MBA)

Research interests

Research is focused on marine microbialbiology and ecology, and is divided into two main areas:

-  Exploringmicrobial diversity and activity in natural marine systems, including theimpact on ecosystem functions and services (e.g. biogeochemical cycles).

-  Developingand applying model microorganisms to understand biogeochemical and ecosystemprocesses.

Research combines contemporary omicsapproaches with analytical biogeochemical techniques and classicmicrobiological methods.

Student-centred approach to teachingand a passion for research-informed teaching.

28. Cunliffe, M., Hollingsworth, A., Bain, C., and Taylor, J.D. (2017) Algal polysaccharide utilisation by saprotrophic planktonic marine fungi. Fungal Ecology 30: 135-138.

27. Smale D, Taylor J, Coombs S, Moore G, & Cunliffe M (2017) Community responses to seawater warming are conserved across diverse biological groupings and taxonomic resolutions. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284: 20170534.

26. Engel A, Bange HW, Cunliffe M et al (2017). The ocean’s vital skin: Towards an integrated understanding of the sea surface microlayer. Frontiers in Marine Science 4: 65.

25. Taylor JD & Cunliffe M (2017) Coastal bacterioplankton community response to diatom-derived polysaccharide microgels. Environmental Microbiology Reports 9: 151–157.

24. Taylor JD & Cunliffe M (2016) Multi-year assessment of coastal planktonic fungi reveals environmental drivers of diversity and abundance. The ISME Journal 10: 2118-2128.

23. Cunliffe M (2016) Purine catabolic pathway revealed by transcriptomics in the model marine bacterium Ruegeria pomeroyi DSS-3. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 92 (1): fiv150.

22. Taylor JD & Cunliffe M (2015) Polychaete burrows harbour distinct microbial communities in oil-contaminated coastal sediments. Environmental Microbiology Reports 7: 606–613.

21. Taylor JD, Ellis R, Milazzo M, Hall-Spencer JM & Cunliffe M (2015) Intertidal epilithic bacteria diversity changes along a naturally occurring carbon dioxide and pH gradient. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 89:670-678.

20. Taylor JD & Cunliffe M (2014) High-throughput sequencing reveals neustonic and planktonic protist diversity in coastal waters. Journal of Phycology 50: 960–965.

19. Brodie J, Cunliffe M et al (2014) The future of the northeast Atlantic benthic flora in a high CO2 world. Ecology and Evolution 4: 2787–2798.

18. Taylor JD, Cottingham SD, Billinge J & Cunliffe M (2014) Seasonal microbial community dynamics correlate with phytoplankton-derived polysaccharides in surface coastal waters. The ISME Journal 8: 245–248.

17. Kadar E, Cunliffe M, et al (2014) Chemical interaction of atmospheric mineral dust-derived nanoparticles with natural seawater - EPS and sunlight-mediated changes. The Science of the Total Environment 468-469: 265-271.

16. Cunliffe M (2013) Physiological and metabolic effects of carbon monoxide oxidation in the model marine bacterioplankton Ruegeria pomeroyi DSS-3. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 79: 738-740.

15. Cunliffe M et al (2013) Sea surface microlayers: A unified physicochemical and biological perspective of the air–ocean interface. Progress in Oceanography 109: 104-116.

14. Lidbury L, Johnson V, Hall-Spencer JM, Munn CB & Cunliffe M (2012) Community-level response of coastal microbial biofilms to ocean acidification in a natural carbon dioxide vent ecosystem. Marine Pollution Bulletin 64: 1063–1066. 

13. Boden R, Cunliffe M, et al (2011) Complete genome sequence of the aerobic marine methanotroph Methylomonas methanica MC09. Journal of Bacteriology 193 (24): 7001-7002.

12. Cunliffe M (2011) Correlating carbon monoxide oxidation with cox genes in the abundant Marine Roseobacter Clade. The ISME Journal 5: 685-691.

11. Lobelle D & Cunliffe M (2011) Early microbial biofilm formation on marine plastic debris. Marine Pollution Bulletin 62: 197-200.

10. Cunliffe M, Upstill-Goddard RC & Murrell JC (2011) Microbiology of aquatic surface microlayers. FEMS Microbiology Reviews 35 (2): 233-246.

9. Cunliffe M & Murrell JC (2010) Eukarya 18S rRNA gene diversity in the sea surface microlayer: insights on the structure of the neustonic microbial loop. The ISME Journal 4: 455-458.

8. Cunliffe M et al (2009) Comparison of bacterioneuston and bacterioplankton dynamics during a phytoplankton bloom in a fjord mesocosm. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 75 (22): 7173-7181. 

7. Cunliffe M et al (2009) Dissolved organic carbon and bacterial populations in the gelatinous surface microlayer of a Norwegian fjord mesocosm. FEMS Microbiology Letters 299 (2): 248-254.

6. Cunliffe M & Murrell JC (2009) The sea surface microlayer is a gelatinous biofilm. The ISME Journal 3: 1001–1003.

5. Cunliffe M et al (2009) Comparison and validation of sampling strategies for the molecular microbial ecological analysis of surface microlayers. Aquatic Microbial Ecology 57: 69-77.

4. Cunliffe M et al (2008) Phylogenetic and functional gene analysis of the bacterial and archaeal communities associated with the surface microlayer of an estuary. The ISME Journal 2: 776–789.  

3. Cunliffe M et al (2006) Effect of inoculum pre-treatment on survival, activity and catabolic gene expression of Sphingobium yanoikuyae B1 in an aged polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-contaminated soil. FEMS Microbial Ecology 58: 364-372.

2. Cunliffe M & Kertesz MA (2006) Autecological properties of soil sphingomonads involved in the degradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 72: 1083-1089.

1. Cunliffe M & Kertesz MA (2006) Effect of Sphingobium yanoikuyae B1 inoculation on bacterial community dynamics and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon degradation in aged and freshly PAH- contaminated soils. Environmental Pollution 144: 228-237.