Dr Rich Boden

Dr Rich Boden

Associate Head of School (Subject Leader)

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


Associate Professor of Microbial Physiology and Taxonomy (2017-)

Associate Head of School (Biological Sciences Subject Group Lead) (2017-)

Academic Staff Representitive to the University Alumni Board (Science and Engineering) (2015-)

Academic Staff Member of Student Recruitment Working Party (2015-)

Former roles:

Lecturer in Environmental Microbiology & Biotechnology (2012-2017)

Faculty of Science & Engineering Marketing and Recruitment Lead (2015-2017)
Faculty Board Member, Faculty of Science and Engineering (and previous incarnations, 2012 - 2016)
Personal Tutor (B.Sc Biological Sciences)
Marketing & Recruitment Coordinator (Biological Sciences)


Ph.D Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, UK ("The Metabolism of Dimethylsulfide in the Bacteria")
B.Sc Biochemistry, King's College London, UK

Professional membership

Fellow, Linnean Society of London (FLS)
Fellow, Royal Microscopical Society (FRMS)
Fellow, Royal Society of Biology (FRSB)
Fellow, Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
Member, Society for Microbiology
Member, Society for Applied Microbiology
Member, British Socieity for History of Science
Member, Systematics Association
Member, Carnivorous Plant Society
Member, British MENSA

Roles on external bodies

Editor-In-Chief, FEMS Microbiology Letters (Nov 2014 - )

Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE - full Member - Mar 2015 - )

Teaching interests

BIOL119 Introduction To Biology
BIOL127 Evolution
BIOL129 Analytical Biochemistry (Module Lead)
BIOL211 Microbial Physiology & Biochemistry (Module Lead)
BIOL3313 Environmental Microbiology & Biotechnology (Module Lead)
BIOL314 and BIOL315 Undergraduate Projects

Researcher Development Programme (Keeping Laboratory Records; Presenting for Conferences) 

Press Releases Relating To Teaching Activities
MBIO208 Microbial Life - Plymouth students given unique access to next-generation DNA sequencing technology:
(now BIOL2307 - BIOL210 from 2015)

Previously taught on:
BIOL1006 Skills in Biological Investigation and Experimentation
BIOL203 Methods in Biological Science
BIOL2307 Microbial Life (Module Lead - BIOL210 from 2015)
BIOL300 Advanced Skills and Concepts (Podule Lead: Bacterial Taxonomy and Systematics and Light Microscopy for Microbiologists)
BIOL304 Global Change Biology
BIOL3313 Environmental Microbiology & Biotechnology (Module Lead)
BIOL3004 Ecology and Environmental Biology Projects
MBIO111 Biodiversity

Staff serving as external examiners

Vavlekas, Dimitrios  (2014)  Microbial recovery of rare earth elements from metallic wastes and scrap.  M.Res. thesis, University of Birmingham, UK (School of Biosciences).

Research interests

Present Interests
My current research programme spans physiology, ecology, biochemistry, taxonomy and environmental process, including soil and freshwater geochemistry. My main thrusts of work concern the microbial transformations of metals, metalloids and sulfur in a range of environments. 

Active research projects can be split into pure and applied aspects though other smaller projects are on-going. My past interests in "one carbon" or "C1" metabolism and that of methylated sulfur compounds has largely come to a natural close now and my interests instead focus primarily on inorganic ions found in the environment and the minerals from which they derive.

Pure Research - Blue Skies and Theoretical Biology

Inorganic sulfur metabolism in members of the Bacteria
(Personnel: Dr Rich Boden (PI), Mr Lee G Hutt (PhD Student), Mr Jack Cowling (Research Assistant). Collaborators: Dr A John Moody (Plymouth), Professor Donovan P Kelly (Warwick); Funding: University of Plymouth 2012 - 2015)
The microbial oxidation of inorganic sulfur from dissolved ions or insoluble minerals forms a key step in the biogeochemical sulfur cycle, transforming complex polysulfur compounds (polythionates, polysulfides) into sulfate, which can be used by the Eukarya as a source of sulfur for growth. Our research in this area concerns the underpinning physiology of the Kelly-Trudinger (or "S4I") pathway of inorganic sulfur metabolism in members of the Class Acidithiobacillia, namely the genera Acidithiobacillus and Thermithiobacillus. We also have interest in the partial Kelly-Trudinger pathway found in chemolithoheterotrophs such as "Thiobacillus trautweinii" and the taxonomy of these organisms.

Impacts of coastal inundation on nitrogen fixation in soils
(Personnel: Dr Mick Hanley (PI), Dr Rich Boden (CoI), Miss Elena Righetti (PhD Student); Collaborators: Dr Joanna Wragg (BGS); Funding: University of Plymouth 2012 - 2015)
Fixation of nitrogen into ammonium by diazotrophic Bacteria is key to growth of plants in the environment. Our research focusses on the impact of rising sea-levels and increasing inundation of coastal farmlands by seawater during storm surge events. In a bottom-up programme of research, we are assessing the impact of storm surge events on whole ecosystems starting with changes in soil geochemistry and its impact on diazotrophic populations and their subsequent impacts on plant biochemistry and thus ecosystem dynamics.

Impacts of bioenergy crop growth on soil microbiology and geochemistry
(Personnel: Dr Rich Boden (CoI), Dr Liz Franklin (PDRA); Collaborators: Dr Mick Hanley (Plymouth); Funding: Seale-Hayne Educational Trust 2013 - 2015)
The environmental impact of cultivation of bioenergy crops such as Miscanthus spp. on UK soils is being assessed through investigation of soil microbial ecology with respect to the sulfur and nitrogen cycles and the underpinning soil geochemistry and metal distributions that are key to the biological activities of microbes, invertebrates and plants.

Microbially mediated mobilisation of As(III) and As(IV) from arsenopyrite in Cornish soils
(Personnel: Dr Rich Boden (PI), Dr Emma Ransome (PDRA); Collaborators: Dr Charlotte Braungardt (Plymouth), Dr Joanna Wragg and Dr Mark Cave (BGS); Funding: Seale-Hayne Educational Trust 2013 - 2015)
Arsenic ions are toxic to most living organisms and pose a risk to human health and to successful farming and management of land. Arsenic ions (As3+ and As5+) mobilise from minerals such as arsenopyrite (AsFeS) found naturally all over the Devon and Cornwall region. In this project, we examine the role of microbial arsenic oxidation reactions and microbial bioleaching of pyrite minerals in the mobilisation and speciation of arsenic ions from arsenopyrite in Cornish soils.

Pathogenicity in Euphydryas editha and Melitaea cinxia and their ethnobotanical responses
(Personnel: Dr Mick Hanley (PI), Dr Rich Boden (CoI), Miss Jessica Alsopp (Summer Student 2013); Collaborators: Prof Mike C Singer and Prof Camille Parmesan (Plymouth and Texas), Dr Richard Billington (Plymouth); Funding: Plymouth 2013)
Microbial pathogenicity in Edith's checkerspot (E. editha) and Glanville fritillary (M. cinxia) butterfly populations kept for scientific research around the world have been observed. This project serves to examine the nature of the infectious agent and to relate this to host-insect interactions with respect to the butterflies' ethnobotanical use of plants to fight the infection.

Applied Research - Biotechnology and Bioremediation

Rare-earth element biorecovery (REECover) and bioextraction (REEMine)
(Personnel: Dr Rich Boden (PI), Mr Ryan Baylis (Research Assistant 2012-13), Miss Megan Kerry (Summer Student 2012), Mr Jack Cowling (Research Assistant), Mr Tom Hathway (Research Assistant); Collaborators: BioORE Consortium: Dr Rich Boden (Director), Prof Lynne Macaskie (CoI), Dr Angie Murray (PDRA), Dr Stephanie Handley-Sidhu (PDRA, Birmingham), Prof Richard Pattrick (CoI, Manchester), Dr Joanna Wragg (CoI, BGS); Funding: NERC Security of Supply of Mineral Resources Grant (Sept 2013-March 2014), Plymouth 2012-13, Reinvestment of consultancy profits)
The rare-earth elements (REEs) are increasingly used in electronic goods, medical devices, MRI contrast agents, lasers and a wide range of alloys and ceramics. Owing to the geopolitical implications of relatively few high-grade ore deposits worldwide, efforts have been made to find alternative extraction processes for these elements from low-grade ores found around the world. REEMine and REECover form two elements of these process pipelines and seek to selectively extract and recover REEs from a variety of ores, mine wastes, tailings, run-offs and consumer waste goods.

Coupled biosensors for measurement of organophosphate contamination of freshwater
(Personnel: Dr Rich Boden (PI), Dr Richard Billington (CoI), Dr John Moody (CoI), Mr Hassan Alhammod Alhilli (Visiting PhD Student); Funding: Iraqi Government (Jan 2013 - July 2013).
Organophosphates are commonly used in a variety of agricultural settings and, as such, present a considerable environmental hazard when they are washed off of agricultural land into water courses, where they have ecotoxicological effects on microorganisms, algae and fish. To rapidly monitor organophosphate levels in a range of aquatic settings, we have developed a proven-in-principle diagnostic, quantitative method based on a highly stable microbial alkaline phosphatase that converts organophosphates into phosphate, which is detected with the malachite green-molybdate method widely used for cost-effective, accurate determination of phosphate. We have developed a highly stable, easy to use immobilised preparation of stable alkaline phosphatases that tolerate extremes of heat, light, UV, dessication and cold, enabling a variety of long-term and short-term storage options for both pre-use storage and between-use storage, since the enzyme preparation can be rapidly removed manually after use, washed and stored for re-use. This project has built upon research undertaken by Mr Alhammod Alhilli in Basra and has developed a stable enzyme preparation from Bacillus sp. FH4, which has shown extreme in vitro stability at room temperature, rendering it highly suited to biosensor development. Future work will continue development with the enzyme preparation to develop "dipstick" test methods and a re-usable probe biosensor for industrial use.

Grants & contracts

Innovate UK Development of biotechnologies for the removal of metals from treated landfill liquor. Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) (c. £185,000). Mar 2017 - Present. Industrial Partner: Phoenix Engineering Ltd.

Innovate UK Optimising biogas production using novel technologies. Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) (c. £175,000). Feb 2016 - Jan 2017. Industrial Partner: New Generation Biogas Ltd (entered administration, Jan 2017).

NERC Security of Supply of Mineral Resources Catalyst Grant "Biogeochemistry, Bioextraction and Biorecovery of Rare Earth Elements (BioORE)". (c.£125,000) Sept 2013-Mar 2014.

Seale-Hayne Educational Trust "Mobilisation of Arsenic in Cornish Agricultural Soils (MAsC)" for Dr Emma Ransome (c.£4,500) Sept 2013-Sept 2014.

Seale-Hayne Educational Trust "Biogeochemistry, microbiology and their role in underpinning the ecology of bioenergy crop farmland" for Dr Liz Franklin (c.£5,500) June 2013-Sept 2013 (joint with Dr Mick Hanley).

University of Plymouth School of Biomedical & Biological Sciences Undergraduate Summer Studentship "Bioextraction of rare-earth elements (REExtract)" for Mr Jack Cowling (c.£750) July 2013 - August 2013.

University of Plymouth School of Biomedical & Biological Sciences Undergraduate Summer Studentship "Pathogens and Symbionts in Euphydryas editha" for Miss Jessica Alsopp (c.£750) July 2013 - August 2013 (joint with Dr Mick Hanley).

University of Plymouth School of Biomedical & Biological Sciences Ph.D Studentship "Physiology and biochemistry of the Kelly-Trudinger pathway" for Mr Lee Hutt. (c.£68,000) Oct 2012 - Sept 2015.

University of Plymouth School of Biomedical & Biological Sciences Ph.D Studentship "Storm surge events and their impact on soil geochemistry, microbiology and plant ecology of coastal grasslands" for Miss Elena Righetti. (c.£68,000) Oct 2012 - Sept 2015.

University of Plymouth School of Biomedical & Biological Sciences Undergraduate Summer Studentship "Toxicology of rare-earth elements (REETox)" for Miss Megan Kerry (c.£750) July 2012 - Sept 2012.

Undiscolosed "Evaluation of microbial communities in composts" 2015.
Dartmoor Zoological Park "Monitoring of local geochemistry" (pro bono) March 2013.
Imerys Minerals Ltd "Towards molecular diagnostic methods for use in quality control" June 2012 - Sept 2012.

Key publications are highlighted

Ripple WJ, Wolf C, Newsome TM, Galetti M, Alamgir M, Crist E, Mahmoud MI, Laurence WF & Boden R 2017 'World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice' Bioscience bix125-bix125 , DOI
Boden R & Oren A 2017 'Proposal to designate Methylothermus subterraneus Hirayama et al. 2011 as the type species of the genus Methylothermus. Request for an Opinion' International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology PEARL
Boden R, Scott KM, Rae AW & Hutt LP 2017 'Reclassification of Thiomicrospira hydrogeniphila (Watsuji et al. 2016) to Thiomicrorhabdus hydrogenophila comb. nov., with emended description of Thiomicrorhabdus (Boden et al., 2017)' International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology , DOI PEARL
Boden R 2017 'Reclassification of Halothiobacillus hydrothermalis and Halothiobacillus halophilus to Guyparkeria gen. nov. in the Thioalkalibacteraceae fam. nov., with emended descriptions of the genus Halothiobacillus and family Halothiobacillaceae' International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology , DOI PEARL
Boden R, Hutt LP & Rae AW 2017 'Reclassification of Thiobacillus aquaesulis (Wood & Kelly, 1995) as Annwoodia aquaesulis gen. nov., comb. nov. Transfer of Thiobacillus (Beijerinck, 1904) from the Hydrogenophilales to the Nitrosomonadales, proposal of Hydrogenophilalia class. nov. within the 'Proteobacteria', and 4 new families within the orders Nitrosomonadales and Rhodocyclales' International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology PEARL
Boden R, Scott KM, Williams J, Russel S, Antonen K, Rae AW & Hutt LP 2017 'An evaluation of Thiomicrospira, Hydrogenovibrio and Thioalkalimicrobium: reclassification of 4 species of Thiomicrospira to each Thiomicrorhabdus gen. nov. and Hydrogenovibrio, and reclassification of all 4 species of Thioalkalimicrobium to Thiomicrospira' International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology PEARL
Boden R 2017 'Editorial: 115 years of sulfur microbiology' FEMS Microbiology Letters 364, (6) , DOI
Boden R 2017 'Editorial: Stewardship—in praise of thankless tasks and the respecting of Wombles' FEMS Microbiology Letters 364, (5) , DOI
Boden R 2017 'Editorial: Why microbiologists are not barophiles' FEMS Microbiology Letters 364, (5) , DOI PEARL
Hutt LP, Huntemann M, Clum A, Pillay M, Palaniappan K, Varghese N, Mikhailova N, Stamatis D, Reddy T & Daum C 2017 'Permanent draft genome of Thiobacillus thioparus DSM 505T, an obligately chemolithoautotrophic member of the Betaproteobacteria' Standards in Genomic Sciences , DOI PEARL
Boden R, Hutt LP, Huntemann M, Clum A, Pillay M, Palaniappan K, Varghese N, Mikhailova N, Stamatis D & Reddy T 2016 'Erratum to: Permanent draft genome of Thermithiobacillus tepidarius DSM 3134T, a moderately thermophilic, obligately chemolithoautotrophic member of the Acidithiobacillia' Standards in Genomic Sciences 11, (1) , DOI
Boden R, Hutt LP, Huntemann M, Clum A, Pillay M, Palaniappan K, Varghese N, Mikhailova N, Stamatis D & Reddy T 2016 'Permanent draft genome of Thermithiobacillus tepidarius DSM 3134T, a moderately thermophilic, obligately chemolithoautotrophic member of the Acidithiobacillia' Standards in Genomic Sciences 11, (1) , DOI PEARL
Boden R 2015 'Editorial: On artemisinin, avermectins and Nobel Prizes' FEMS Microbiology Letters 362, (23) fnv199-fnv199 , DOI
2015 'Editorial: A time of great change' FEMS Microbiology Letters 362, (1) 1-1 , DOI
Boden R 2012 'Emended description of the genus Methylophaga Janvier et al. 1985' International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 62, (7) 1644-1646
Antony CP, Doronina NV, Boden R, Trotsenko YA, Shouche YS & Murrell JC 2012 'Methylophaga lonarensis sp. nov., a novel moderately haloalkaliphilic methylotroph isolated from the soda lake sediments of a meteorite impact crater' International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology
Boden R, Cleland D, Green PN, Katayama Y, Uchino Y, Murrell JC & Kelly DP 2012 'Phylogenetic assessment of culture collection strains of Thiobacillus thioparus, and definative 16S rRNA gene sequences for T. thioparus, T. denitrificans and Halothiobacillus neapolitanus' Archives of Microbiology 194, 187-195
Boden R, Cunliffe M, Scanlan J, Moussard H, Kits KD, Klotz MG, Jetten MS, Vuilleumier S, Han J & Peters L 2011 'Complete genome sequence of the aerobic marine methanotroph Methylomonas methanica MC09' Journal of Bacteriology , DOI
Boden R & Murrell JC 2011 'Response to mercury (II) ions in Methylococcus capsulatus (Bath)' FEMS Microbiology Letters
Boden R, Borodina E, Wood AP, Kelly DP, Murrell JC & Schäfer H 2011 'Purification and characterization of dimethylsulfide monooxygenase from Hyphomicrobium sulfonivorans' Journal of Bacteriology 193, (5) 1250-1258 , DOI
Boden R, Murrell JC & Schäfer H 2011 'Dimethylsulfide is an energy source for the heterotrophic marine bacterium Sagittula stellata' FEMS Microbiology Letters 322, 188-193
Hung W-L, Wade W, Boden R, Kelly DP & Wood AP 2011 'Facultative methylotrophs from the human oral cavity and methylotrophy in strains of Gordonia, Leifsonia and Microbacterium' Archives of Microbiology 193, 407-417
Boden R, Ferriera S, Johnson J, Kelly DP & Murrell JC 2011 'The draft genome of the chemolithoheterotrophic halophilic methylotroph Methylophaga thiooxydans DMS010' Journal of Bacteriology 193, 3154-3155
Boden R, Kelly DP, Murrell JC & Schäfer H 2010 'Oxidation of dimethylsulfide to tetrathionate by Methylophaga thiooxidans sp. nov.: a new link in the sulfur cycle' Environmental Microbiology 12, (10) 2688-2699 , DOI
Antony CP, Kumaresan D, Ferrando F, Boden R, Moussard H, Scavino AF, Shouche Y & Murrell JC 2010 'Active methylotrophs in the sediments of Lonar Lake, a saline and alkaline ecosystem formed by meteor impact' ISME Journal 4, 1470-1480
Chen Y, Wu L, Boden R, Hillebrand A, Kumaresan D, Moussard H, Baciu M, Lu Y & Murrell JC 2009 'Life without light: microbial diversity and evidence of sulfur- and ammonium-based chemolithotrophy in Movile Cave' ISME Journal 3, 1093-1104
Boden R, Thomas E, Savani P, Kelly DP & Wood AP 2008 'Novel methylotrophic bacteria isolated from the River Thames (London, UK)' Environmental Microbiology 10, (12) 3225-3236 , DOI
Neufeld JD, Boden R, Moussard H, Schäfer H & Murrell JC 2008 'Substrate-specific clades of active marine methylotrophs associated with a phytoplankton bloom in a temperate coastal environment' Applied and Environmental Microbiology 74, 7321-7328
Neufeld JD, Schäfer H, Cox MJ, Boden R, McDonald IR & Murrell JC 2007 'Stable-isotope probing implicates Methylophaga spp. and novel Gammaproteobacteria in marine methanol and methylamine metabolism' ISME Journal 1, 480-491
Ebringer A, Rashid T, Wilson C, Boden R & Thompson E 2005 'A possible link between multiple sclerosis and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease based on clinical, genetic, pathological and immunological evidence involving Acinetobacter bacteria' Medical Hypotheses 487-494
Harris CE, Boden RA & Astell CR 1999 'A novel heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein-like protein interacts with NS1 of the minute virus of mice' J Virol 73, (1) 72-80 Author Site
Boden R & Scott KM 0 'Evaluation of the genus Thiothrix Winogradsky 1888 (Approved Lists 2 1980) emend. Aruga et al. 2002: reclassification of Thiothrix disciformis to 3 Thiolinea disciformis gen. nov., comb. nov., and of Thiothrix flexilis to 4 Thiofilum flexile gen. nov., comb nov., with emended description of 5 Thiothrix' International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology PEARL
Scott KM, Williams J, Porter CMB, Russel S, Harmer TL, Paul JH, Antonen KM, Bridges MK, Camper GJ & Campla CK 0 'Genomes of ubiquitous marine and hypersaline Hydrogenovibrio, Thiomicrorhabdus, and Thiomicrospira spp. encode a diversity of mechanisms to sustain chemolithoautotrophy in heterogeneous environments' Environmental Microbiology Author Site , DOI PEARL
Schäfer H, Myronova N & Boden R 2010 'Microbial degradation of dimethylsulphide and related C1-sulphur compounds: organisms and pathways controlling fluxes of sulphur in the biosphere' Journal of Experimental Botany 61, (2) 315-334 , DOI
Boden R & Hutt LP 2018 'Chemolithoheterotrophy: Means to Higher Growth Yields from this Widespread Metabolic Trait' in Rojo F Aerobic Utilization of Hydrocarbons, Oils and Lipids. Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology. Cham, Switzerland Springer 1-25 Publisher Site , DOI
Conference Papers
Murray AJ, Singh S, Vavlekas D, Tolley MR, Hathway TP, Baylis RE, Boden R & Macaskie LE 2014 'A Novel biomineralization process For continuous, selective recovery of rare earth elements' Verbaan N 53rd Conference of Metallurgists Vancouver, Canada 28/09/2014 01/10/2014 Montreal, Quebec, Canada Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum

Other academic activities

Editor-In-Chief, FEMS Microbiology Letters (2014 - )
Associate Editor, Frontiers in Terrestrial Microbiology (2011 -)
Associate Editor, Frontiers in Microbial Physiology and Metabolism (2012 -)
Review Editor, Frontiers in Microbial Physiology and Metabolism (2011 - 2012)

Peer reviewer for Environmental Microbiology, Journal of Hazardous Materials, Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, Journal of Applied Microbiology, Archives of Microbiology.