Dr. Kirsten Müller
Head, Science Team
Phycologist and Marine Biologist
Kirsten Müller is a Professor of Biology and an Assistant Vice President of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs at the University of Waterloo. In addition, she is currently the President of the Phycological Society of America (2019), an Associate Editor for the Journal of Phycology, an affiliate of the Water, Science and Technology Policy Group and a board member of the International Phycological Society. Kirsten has been a faculty member at the University of Waterloo since 2000 and holds a BSc from Memorial University of Newfoundland and a PhD from the University of Guelph.
Kirsten is an expert in the field of Phycology, the study of algae, and her research has focused on the evolution of various algal groups including identifying new species. Currently, she is working on an ancient lineage of red algae that have been reported in the fossil record as far back as 1.6 billion years. This group is of considerable economic importance as it contains the genera Pyropia and Porphyra (aka. Nori, used in sushi) and are global billion-dollar aquaculture industries. In addition, the red algae are a critical group in the evolution of non-green plant life on earth, through the evolution of chloroplasts. Red algae chloroplasts are the common ancestors to the chloroplasts contained in large kelps, rockweeds and diatoms and without this pivotal event in evolution, our oceans would be absent of these foundational and key food web species that are critical to our oceans and animals that live in them.
In addition to her work on seaweeds, Kirsten’s research also ocuses on freshwater algae in rivers, lakes and she has conducted field work in the Arctic (Ellesmere, Axel Heiberg, Victoria, Cornwallis, Devon and Bathurst Islands), Europe, Africa and numerous places in North America. Recently, her laboratory has been examining the microbial communities, including potentially toxic cyanobacteria in forested watersheds in Canada and the impact of forest fires in contributing to blooms of problematic algae – including in her hometown of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Dr. Müller uses a variety of techniques in her research laboratory to evaluate these organisms, including microscopy and also DNA tools for genes, genomes and community profiling.
Kirsten has long had an affinity for the marine environment, with a family history from the Baltic Sea and the shores of Newfoundland and has been a scuba diver since she was sixteen. Kirsten grew up in Northern Canada, where the outdoors was a huge part of her life and this continues to today. She has taught marine field courses in Costa Rica and Jamaica and has won awards for her teaching at the University of Waterloo in courses including, Diversity of Life, Phycology and Marine Biology. As a woman in STEM, Kirsten is passionate about being a role model and advocating for increasing graduate student diversity in STEM and is thrilled to be part of Sedna Epic with those who share her goals in addressing mentorship, equity and diversity, and science communication.