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Carrine Blank

Blank, Carrine

Phone: (406) 241-2038

Office: CHCB 109a


Research Assistant Professor

Curriculum Vitae


PhD 2002; University of California, Berkeley; Integrative Biology

BSc 1992; University of Washington, Seattle; Microbiology and Immunology

BSc 1992; University of Washington, Seattle; Cell and Molecular Biology

Teaching Experience

At University of Montana:

Intro to Physical Geology: Spring 2012, Winter 2012, Fall 2011, Winter 2010, Fall 2010


At Washington University:

Controversies in Astrobiology: Fall 2006, Spring 2005, Spring 2003

Intro to Astrobiology: Spring 2006, Spring 2004

Microbes in the Environment: Fall 2003, Fall 2005

Topics in the Geosciences - History of Science: Spring 2006

Topics in the Geosciences - Microbial Evolution: Spring 2005

Seminar in Population Biology - Tree of Life: Spring 2005

Research Interests

Reconstructing the co-evolution of the precambrian Earth and early life using phylogenomic dating.  Evolution of habitat and physiological traits in the Cyanobacteria, Archaea, and thermophilic bacteria.

Green technology research involving Cyanobacteria and microalgae for renewable chemical manufacturing and wastewater treatment, in partnership with local Montana biotech companies.

MIcrobial phylogenetics and evolution; identifying core phylogenies and lateral gene transfer of metabolic genes.

Selected Publications

Blank CE.  2013.  Origin and early evolution of photosynthetic eukaryotes in freshwater environments – reinterpreting Proterozoic paleobiology and biogeochemical processes in light of trait evolution.  Journal of Phycology 49(6):1040-1055.  DOI: 10.1111/jpy.12111.

Blank CE.  2013.  Phylogenetic distribution of compatible solute synthesis genes support a freshwater origin for Cyanobacteria. Journal of Phycology 49(5):880-895. DOI: 10.1111/jpy.12098.

Gammons CH, Pape BL, Parker SR, Poulson SR, Blank CE.  2013.  Geochemistry, water balance, and stable isotopes of a “clean” pit lake at an abandoned tungsten mine, Montana, USA.    Applied Geochemistry, 36:57-69.

Burleigh JG, Alphonse K, Alverson A, Bik H, Blank CE et al.  2013. Next generation phenomics for the tree of life. PLoS Currents - Tree of Life.  doi: 10.1371/currents.tol.085c713acafc8711b2ff7010a4b03733.

Blank CE. 2012.   Low rates of lateral gene transfer among metabolic genes define the evolving biogeochemical niches of Archaea through deep time.  Archaea  doi:10.1155/2012/843539.

Blank CE.  2011.  An expansion of age constraints for microbial clades that lack a conventional fossil record using phylogenomic dating. Journal of Molecular Evolution, 73(3), 188-208.

Blank CE and Sánchez-Baracaldo P.  2010.  Timing of morphological and ecological innovations in the Cyanobacteria – A key to understanding the rise in atmospheric oxygen.  Geobiology, 8(1), 1-23.

Blank, CE.  2009.  Not so old Archaea – The antiquity of biogeochemical processes in the archaeal domain of life.  Geobiology, 7(5), 495-514.

Blank CE.  2009.  Phylogenomic dating - A method of constraining the age of microbial taxa that lack a conventional fossil record.  Astrobiology, 9(2):173-192.

Blank CE.  2009.  Phylogenomic dating – The relative antiquity of archaeal metabolic and physiological traits.  Astrobiology, 9(2):192-220.

Blank CE.  2008.  Phylogenomic dating and the relative ancestry of prokaryotic metabolisms.  In: "From Fossils to Astrobiology", edited by M. Walsh and J. Seckbach, Springer-Verlag.

Tenesch AC, Dietrich A, Cady SL, Blank CE, and Hinman NW.  2008. Silica deposition on cells in environmentally defined experimental solutions.  Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 72(12):A940.

Huntress WT, Noonan NE, Atreya SK, Blank CE, et al.,  2007.  Grading NASA’s Solar System Exploration Program; A Midterm Review.  National Research Council Committee on Assessing NASA’s Solar System Exploration Program.

Sánchez-Baracaldo P, Hayes PK, and Blank CE.  2005.  Morphological and habitat evolution in the Cyanobacteria using a compartmentalization approach.  Geobiology, 3(3):145-165.

Blank CE.  2004.  Evolutionary timing of the origins of mesophilic sulfate reduction and oxygenic photosynthesis: A phylogenomic dating approach.  Geobiology, 2(1):1-20.

Blank CE, Cady SL, and Pace NR.  2002.  Microbial composition of silica-depositing thermal springs throughout Yellowstone National Park.  Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 68(10):5123-5135.

Leigh JA, Kessler PS, and Blank CE.  1998.  Regulation of nif gene transcription in Methanococcus maripaludis, In: “Biological Nitrogen Fixation for the 21st Century”, C. Elmerich, A. Kondorosi, and W. E. Newton, eds., pp. 115-116.

Kessler PS, Blank CE, and Leigh JA.  1998.  The nif gene operon of the methanogenic archaeon Methanococcus maripaludisJournal of Bacteriology, 180(6):1504-1511.

Cohen-Kupiec R, Blank CE, and Leigh JA.  1997.  Transcriptional regulation in Archaea: In vivo demonstration of a repressor binding site in a methanogen.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 94:1316-1320.

Cattolico RA, Hariharan T, Johnson P, Blank C, and Kurtz H.  1996.  Evolutionary variations in phosphoribulokinase among autotrophic organisms.  Journal of Phycology, 32(3):SUPPL. 10.

Blank CE, Kessler PS, and Leigh JA.  1995.  Genetics in methanogens: transposon insertion mutagenesis of a Methanococcus maripaludis nifH gene.  Journal of Bacteriology, 177:5773-7.


Specialized Skills


Production of Cyanobacterial or Algal Biomass Using Chitin As a Nitrogen Source.  Patent Number 8,673,619, issued 3/18/2014 (filed 3/26/2012). Submitted as International Patent Application No. PCT/US12/30620; Filed 3/26/12.  Originally submitted as Provisional Patent Photosynthetic Degradation of Chitin Using Cyanobacteria or Algae for Biomass or Biofuel Production.  Serial No. 61/467,869; FIled 3/25/11.

Professional Experience

2007-present Research Assistant Professor, University of Montana, Geosciences Dept.

2010-2012 Adjunct Assistant Professor; University of Montana, Geosciences Dept.

2002-2007 Assistant Professor, Washington University, Dept. Earth and Planetary Sciences


Constructing an ontology of prokaryotic traits to support automated algorithms for coding character matrices to study the evolution of prokaryotic traits through deep time.

Identifying the connections between microbial evolution and climate change in the geologic past.

Developing an acidic algae wastewater treatment method using chitin as a novel source of nitrogen.

Using chitin as a novel source of nitrogen and algae to remove nutrients and contaminants from pulp and paper mill wastewater.

Studying lipid and pigment production in algae using chitin as a novel source of nitrogen.