Sallie (Penny) W. Chisholm

Sallie (Penny) W. Chisholm

Institute Professor

Sallie (Penny) W. Chisholm studies the biology, ecology, and evolution of the single most abundant marine phytoplankton species in order to understand the forces that shape microbial ecosystems.





Ed Carlevale



Assistant Phone


PhD 1974, SUNY Albany

Research Summary

Our goal is to understand the ecology and evolution of ocean microbes and how they influence global biogeochemical cycles. We focus on the cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus, which is the smallest and most abundant microbe in ocean ecosystems — sometimes accounting for half the total photosynthetic biomass. We use this model system to study life across all scales — from the genome to the ecosystem.


  • Generalitat of Catalonia, Ramon Margalef Prize in Ecology, 2013
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow, 2012
  • National Medal of Science, 2011
  • National Academy of Sciences, Alexander Agassiz Medal, 2010
  • National Academy of Sciences, Member, 2003
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Guggenheim Fellowship, 1997
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fellow, 1992

Key Publications

  1. Niche partitioning among Prochlorococcus ecotypes along ocean-scale environmental gradients. Johnson, ZI, Zinser, ER, Coe, A, McNulty, NP, Woodward, EM, Chisholm, SW. 2006. Science 311, 1737-40.
    doi: 10.1126/science.1118052PMID: 16556835
  2. Genome divergence in two Prochlorococcus ecotypes reflects oceanic niche differentiation. Rocap, G, Larimer, FW, Lamerdin, J, Malfatti, S, Chain, P, Ahlgren, NA, Arellano, A, Coleman, M, Hauser, L, Hess, WR et al.. 2003. Nature 424, 1042-7.
    doi: 10.1038/nature01947PMID: 12917642
  3. Physiology and molecular phylogeny of coexisting Prochlorococcus ecotypes. Moore, LR, Rocap, G, Chisholm, SW. 1998. Nature 393, 464-7.
    doi: 10.1038/30965PMID: 9624000

Recent Publications

  1. Evolutionary radiation of lanthipeptides in marine cyanobacteria. Cubillos-Ruiz, A, Berta-Thompson, JW, Becker, JW, van der Donk, WA, Chisholm, SW. 2017. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 114, E5424-E5433.
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.1700990114PMID: 28630351
  2. Prochlorococcus. Chisholm, SW. 2017. Curr. Biol. 27, R447-R448.
    doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.02.043PMID: 28586674
  3. Fundamental differences in diversity and genomic population structure between Atlantic and Pacific Prochlorococcus. Kashtan, N, Roggensack, SE, Berta-Thompson, JW, Grinberg, M, Stepanauskas, R, Chisholm, SW. 2017. ISME J 11, 1997-2011.
    doi: 10.1038/ismej.2017.64PMID: 28524867
  4. Metabolic evolution and the self-organization of ecosystems. Braakman, R, Follows, MJ, Chisholm, SW. 2017. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 114, E3091-E3100.
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.1619573114PMID: 28348231
  5. Membrane vesicles in sea water: heterogeneous DNA content and implications for viral abundance estimates. Biller, SJ, McDaniel, LD, Breitbart, M, Rogers, E, Paul, JH, Chisholm, SW. 2017. ISME J 11, 394-404.
    doi: 10.1038/ismej.2016.134PMID: 27824343
  6. Gene Expression Patterns during Light and Dark Infection of Prochlorococcus by Cyanophage. Thompson, LR, Zeng, Q, Chisholm, SW. 2016. PLoS ONE 11, e0165375.
    doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0165375PMID: 27788196
  7. Torn apart and reunited: impact of a heterotroph on the transcriptome of Prochlorococcus. Biller, SJ, Coe, A, Chisholm, SW. 2016. ISME J 10, 2831-2843.
    doi: 10.1038/ismej.2016.82PMID: 27258949
  8. Global genetic capacity for mixotrophy in marine picocyanobacteria. Yelton, AP, Acinas, SG, Sunagawa, S, Bork, P, Pedrós-Alió, C, Chisholm, SW. 2016. ISME J 10, 2946-2957.
    doi: 10.1038/ismej.2016.64PMID: 27137127
  9. Draft Genome Sequence of Alteromonas macleodii Strain MIT1002, Isolated from an Enrichment Culture of the Marine Cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus. Biller, SJ, Coe, A, Martin-Cuadrado, AB, Chisholm, SW. 2015. Genome Announc 3, .
    doi: 10.1128/genomeA.00967-15PMID: 26316635
  10. Response of Prochlorococcus to varying CO2:O2 ratios. Bagby, SC, Chisholm, SW. 2015. ISME J 9, 2232-45.
    doi: 10.1038/ismej.2015.36PMID: 25848872
More Publications





Photo credit: Richard Howard