Skip to main content

Robert A Sanford

Research Interests

I focus on the Microbial Ecology of biogeochemical processes, particularly those that occur in the subsurface. Of particular interest are studies involving respiratory anaerobic microorganisms, such as those that reduce halogenated compounds and metals, in both natural and human impacted ecosystems. Recent projects have involved deep subsurface microbial activity in the Illinois Basin Mt. Simon formation; microbial community composition in the Mahomet aquifer (major drinking water source for Champaign); bioremediation of chlorinated solvents in low permeability zones; evaluation of sulfate reducing microbial growth in microfluidic devices; and detailed evaluation of the N-cycle in agricultural soils and tropical soils relative to greenhouse gas (nitrous oxide) formation.


  • PhD. Microbiology, Michigan State University 1996
  • MS. Microbiology, Colorado State University
  • BA. Biology, Whitman College

Courses Taught

  • GEOL 561: Geomicrobiology and Geochemistry (Spring)
  • Fall Geomicrobiology Topics Seminar (Climate Change, Bioremediation, etc.)

Additional Campus Affiliations

Research Associate Professor, Geology

Recent Publications

Chen, M., Conroy, J. L., Sanford, R. A., Wyman-Feravich, D. A., Chee-Sanford, J. C., & Connor, L. M. (2023). Tropical lacustrine sediment microbial community response to an extreme El Niño event. Scientific reports, 13(1), Article 6868.

Berns-Herrboldt, E. C., You, X., Lin, J., Sanford, R. A., Valocchi, A. J., Strathmann, T., Schaefer, C. E., & Werth, C. J. (2022). Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Enhance Abiotic Trichloroethene Reduction by Iron-Sulfur Mineral Precipitates. ACS ES and T Water, 2(9), 1500-1510.

Chen, M., Conroy, J. L., Geyman, E. C., Sanford, R. A., Chee-Sanford, J. C., & Connor, L. M. (2022). Stable carbon isotope values of syndepositional carbonate spherules and micrite record spatial and temporal changes in photosynthesis intensity. Geobiology, 20(5), 667-689.

Egenriether, S., Sanford, R., Yang, W. H., & Kent, A. D. (2022). Nitrogen Cycling Microbial Diversity and Operational Taxonomic Unit Clustering: When to Prioritize Accuracy Over Speed. Frontiers in Microbiology, 13, Article 730340.

Fouke, B. W., Bhattacharjee, A. S., Fried, G. A., Sivaguru, M., Sanford, R. A., Zhou, L., Alcalde, R. E., Wunch, K., Stephenson, A., Ferrar, J. A., Hernandez, A. G., Wright, C., Fields, C. J., Todorov, L. G., Fouke, K. W., Bailey, C. M., & Werth, C. J. (2022). Sulfate-reducing bacteria streamers and iron sulfides abruptly occlude porosity and increase hydraulic resistance in proppant-filled shale fractures. AAPG Bulletin, 106(1), 179-208.

View all publications on Illinois Experts