Cara Santelli

Santelli new

Cara Santelli

Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences


John T. Tate Hall
Room 375-08
116 Church Street Se
Minneapolis, MN 55455


MnDRIVE Environment
BioTechnology Institute
Institute on the Environment Associate


B.S. University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2000
MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography, 2007 (Katrina Edwards and Wolfgang Bach)

Harvard University, 2010 (Colleen Hansel)

Professional Background

Google Scholar

Scientific & Professional Societies

  • American Geophysical Union (AGU)
  • American Chemical Society (ACS)
  • Geological Society of America (GSA)
  • Geochemical Society
  • Mineralogical Society of America (MSA)
Research Interests

I am a geomicrobiologist in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and a member of the BioTechnology Institute at UMN.  My research examines the impact of microbial activity on geological and environmental processes such as mineral formation, mineral alteration and weathering, metal(loid) redox transformations, nutrient biogeochemical cycling, and the remediation of polluted environments.  My specific research objectives are driven by conducting fundamental scientific research on environmentally relevant biogeochemical processes and key elements in nature that are further influenced by anthropogenic activities (e.g., mining, agriculture, and climate change).  Because of the highly interdisciplinary nature of my research, I work with a multidisciplinary team of scientists and students with diverse scientific training and expertise.  We use multiple approaches ranging from metagenomics, genomics, and transcriptomics to understand microbial communities and molecular mechanisms associated with specific biogeochemical activities to mineralogical X-ray and spectroscopic techniques to identify and characterize biomineralization products and stability of these products in a changing environment.  In addition to answering key questions on the mechanisms, metabolic pathways, and geochemical impact of mineral—metal-microbe interactions, we seek to inform and improve strategies for remediating inorganic pollutants to improve the quality and health of water and soil environments. 

To learn more about me and my research group, visit my Santelli Geomicrobiology Lab website or follow me (@biominerals) on Twitter.

Teaching Subjects
Geomicrobiology (ESCI 4801/8801)
Oceanography (ESCI 1006/1106)
Human Impacts on Ocean Health (GCC 338)

Honors and Awards

Recent Research Support

  • NSF CNH2-L “First We Must Consider Manoomin” (Wild Rice): A Flagship for Co-Creating Socio-Ecological Knowledge to Support Indigenous Resource Sovereignty, 2020 – 2024, PI M. Dockry, $1,500,000
  • DOE SBR “Interactions between molecular-scale biogeochemical processes and hyporheic exchange for understanding coupled Fe-S-C cycling in iron-rich riparian wetlands”, 2019 – 2023,  PI C. Santelli, $600,000
  • NSF IES “Collaborative research: Banded together: modern water-microbe-mineral feedbacks in the deep Archean lithosphere”,  Dec. 2018 – 2023, PI B. Toner, $2,396,666
  • NSF GG “CAREER: Genome-enabled investigations into the mechanisms and ecological controls on selenium transformations by fungi”, 2018 – 2023, PI Santelli, $855,655
  • MnDRIVE Environment “Remediation and selective recovery of metals by Mn oxidizing microbes”, 2020-2022 $154,000


  • Environmental Initiative Organization, Local Sustainability Award, Honorable Mention, “First We Should Consider Manoomin”, 2020
  • NSF CAREER Award, 2018 – 2023

Selected Publications

  • Schuler, C.J., Briscoe, L.J., Alexander, S.C., Alexander, E.C., Gralnick, J..A, Santelli, C.M., and Toner, B.M., 2022. Water and Rock Chemistry Inform Our Understanding of the Deep Biosphere: Case Study in an Archaean Banded Iron Formation. Frontiers in Earth Science, 10:803250.  doi: 10.3389/feart.2022.803250
  • Sabuda, M. C., Mejia, J., Wedal, M., Kuester, B., Xu, T., and Santelli, C. M., 2022. The effect of organic carbon form and concentration on fungal selenite reduction. Applied geochemistry, 136. doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2021.105163
  • Matson, L., G. H. C. Ng, M. Dockry, M. Nyblade, H. J. King, M. Bellcourt, J. Bloomquist, P. Bunting, E. Chapman, D. Dalbotten, M. A. Davenport, K. Diver, M. Duquain, W. Graveen, K. Hagsten, K. Hedin, S. Howard, T. Howes, J. Johnson, S. Kesner, E. Kojola, R. LaBine, D. J. Larkin, M. Montano, S. Moore, A. Myrbo, M. Northbird, M. Porter, R. Robinson, C. M. Santelli, R. Schmitter, R. Shimek, N. Schuldt, A. Smart, D. Strong, J. Torgeson, D. Vogt and A. Waheed (2021). "Transforming research and relationships through collaborative tribal-university partnerships on Manoomin (wild rice)." Environmental Science & Policy 115: 108-115. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2020.10.010
  • Rosenfeld, C.E., Sabuda, M.C., Hinkle, M.A.G., James, B.E., Santelli, C.M., 2020. A fungal-mediated cryptic selenium cycle linked to manganese biogeochemistry.  Environmental Science and Technology, 54(6), 3570-3580. doi:10.1021/acs.est.9b06022.
  • Ng, G. H. C., Rosenfeld, C. E., Santelli, C. M., Yourd, A. R., Lange, J., Duhn, K., and Johnson, N. W., 2020. Microbial and Reactive Transport Modeling Evidence for Hyporheic FluxDriven Cryptic Sulfur Cycling and Anaerobic Methane Oxidation in a SulfateImpacted WetlandStream System. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. 125(2) doi: 10.1029/2019jg005185.
  • Rosenfeld, C.E., Kenyon, J.A., James, B.R., and Santelli, C.M., 2017. Selenium (IV,VI) reduction and tolerance by fungi in an oxic environment. Geobiology, 15, 441-452. doi: 10.1111/gbi.12224
  • Hansel, C.M., Zeiner, C.A., Santelli, C.M., Webb, S.M., 2012. Mn (II) oxidation by an ascomycete fungus is linked to superoxide production during asexual reproduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 109, pp. 12621–12625. doi:10.1073/pnas.1203885109
  • Santelli, C.M., Webb, S.M., Dohnalkova, A.C., Hansel, C.M., 2011. Diversity of Mn oxides produced by Mn(II)-oxidizing fungi. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta,vol. 75, pp. 2762-2776. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2011.02.022
  • Santelli, C.M., Orcutt, B.N., Banning, E., Bach, W., Moyer, C.L., Sogin, M.L., Staudigel, H., Edwards, K.J., 2008.  Abundance and diversity of microbial life in ocean crust.  Nature, vol. 453, pp. 643-657. doi:10.1038/nature06899
  • Santelli, C.M., Welch, S.A., Westrich, H.R., Banfield, J.F., 2001.  The effect of Fe-oxidizing bacteria on Fe-silicate mineral dissolution.  Chemical Geology, vol. 180, no. 1-4, pp. 99-115. doi:10.1016/S0009-2541(01)00308-4

Complete Publication List