MIT EAPS Directory

Gregory Fournier

Associate Professor of Geobiology

Greg Fournier is an expert in molecular phylogenetics and microbial evolution. His research investigates the geobiological context for the complex evolutionary histories of genes involved in “horizontal gene transfer” or HGT, the early evolution of microbial systems and metabolisms, and how these processes have shaped the biogeochemistry and habitability of the planet.

His research accomplishments span many eras of Earth’s history, including the identification of the HGT origin of new methane-producing metabolisms at a time closely linked with the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, discovering gene histories showing oxygen-dependent sterol biosynthesis evolved in the ancestors of eukaryotes over 2 billion years ago, and developing new HGT-based approaches for dating the origin of microbial groups and metabolisms, including methanogenesis and oxygenic photosynthesis. His current work focuses on expanding HGT-based molecular clocks to obtain a comprehensive, precise dating of the microbial Tree of Life, as well as focused studies on the evolution of major groups of cyanobacteria, green sulfur bacteria, and microbes involved in the nitrogen cycle and the consumption of animal-derived organic materials.

Fournier received an A.B. degree in Genetics from Dartmouth (2001) and a Ph.D. in Genetics and Genomics from the University of Connecticut (2009). Since then he has worked as a Postdoctoral Associate at the University of Connecticut and as a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow in MIT’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. He joined the faculty at MIT in 2014.


Fournier GP, Moore KR**, Bosak T, Payette J*, Rangel LT***. (2021) The Archean origin of oxygenic photosynthesis and extant cyanobacterial lineages. Proc Biol Sci. 288: 20210675. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2021.0675.

Gruen D**, Wolfe JM***, Fournier GP. (2019) Paleozoic diversification of terrestrial chitin-degrading bacterial lineages. BMC Evolutionary Biology.19:34:doi:10.1186/s12862-019-1357-8.

Fournier GP, Poole AM. (2018) A Briefly Argued Case That Asgard Archaea Are Part of the Eukaryote Tree. Front Microbiol. 9:1896:doi:10.3389/fmicb.2018.01896.

Wolfe JM***, Fournier GP. (2018) Horizontal gene transfer constrains the timing of methanogen evolution. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2(5):897-903.

Magnabosco C**, Moore KR**, Wolfe JM***, Fournier GP. (2018) Dating phototrophic microbial lineages with reticulate gene histories. Geobiology. 16(2):179-189.

Cantine M**, Fournier G. (2017) Environmental Adaptation From the Origin of Life to the Last Universal Common Ancestor. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres. doi:10.1007/s11084-017-9542-5.

Gold D, Caron A*, Fournier G, Summons R. (2016) Paleoproterozoic sterol biosynthesis and the rise of oxygen. Nature. 543:420-423.

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Fellow, Signatures of Life in the Universe Initiative, RSCA/Heising-Simons Foundation (2021) | Cecil and Ida Green Career Development Assistant Professorship (2016) | Young Investigator Selected Talk: American Society of Microbiology 112th General Meeting, San Francisco (2012) | Sherwood Change Award for Student Excellence in the Origin of Life: Gordon Research Conference on Origin of Life, California (2008)