Skip to main content

James (Jim) Moran
Joint Appointee

Dr. James Moran is a Joint Appointee with Michigan State University. He works with the Terrestrial-Atmospheric Processes team. He specializes in better understanding rhizosphere nutrient exchange processes and the role that spatial organization plays in driving relevant plant, microbial, and geochemical interactions. The technical focus of his work includes analysis of multiple isotopes of light elements (primarily of C, H, N, and O) both with and without labeled tracers. He applies these techniques to chemical forensics, microbial ecology, animal ecology, and national security efforts. Specific instrument development efforts have led to design and construction of a series of spatially resolved techniques for making isotope, protein, and elemental compositional analysis over solid surfaces.

Moran is also leading efforts to develop extremely high sensitivity isotope measurements using capillary absorption spectroscopy, decreasing order of magnitudes in sample size requirements over traditional mass spectrometry approaches.

Research Interests

  • Rhizosphere Processes
  • Microbial Interactions
  • Microbial Ecology
  • Stable Isotope Geochemistry
  • Biogeochemistry


  • Postdoc, McMaster University, 2007-2008
  • PhD in Geosciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 2007
  • BA in Chemistry and Geology with a Biology minor, Lawrence University, 2000

Awards and Recognition

  • Early Career Award to pursue a five-year project entitled “Spatially resolved rhizosphere function: Elucidating key controls on nutrient interactions,” Biological and Environmental Research program, U.S. Department of Energy
  • Outstanding Performance Award, High Precision Isotope Forensics via Multi-Collector Inductively-Coupled Mass Spectrometry (2011)

Affiliations and Professional Service

  • American Chemical Society
  • Member, Committee on Chemistry and Public Affairs, American Chemical Society (2019-present) Associate Member 2017-2019; Member 2019-present)
  • Member, Executive Committee, Chemical Forensics International Technical Working Group (2018-present)
  • Associate Member, Committee on Chemistry and Public Affairs Member, American Chemical Society (2017-2019)
  • American Geophysical Union
  • European Geosciences Union
  • Geochemical Society
  • Soil Science Society of America


  • M.L. Alexander, J.F. Kelly, R.L. Sams, J.J. Moran, M.K. Newburn, T.A. Blake. April 24, 2018. “Capillary absorption spectrometer and process for isotopic analysis of small samples.” US 9,952,144.
  • M.L. Alexander, J.F. Kelly, R.L. Sams, J.J. Moran, M.K. Newburn, T.A. Blake. March 29, 2016. “Capillary absorption spectrometer and process for isotopic analysis of small samples.” US 9,297,756.



Boiteau R.M., R.K. Kukkadapu, J.B. Cliff, C.R. Smallwood, L. Kovarik, M.G. Wirth, and M.H. Engelhard, et al. 2020. "Calcareous organic matter coatings sequester siderophores in alkaline soils." Science of the Total Environment 724. PNNL-SA-147851. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138250

Larimer C.J., E.H. Denis, J.D. Suter, and J.J. Moran. 2020. "Optical coherence tomography imaging of plant root growth in soil." Applied Optics 59, no. 8:2474-2481. PNNL-SA-149582. doi:10.1364/AO.384674

Anderton C.R., J.M. Mobberley, J.K. Cole, J. Nunez, R.F. Starke, A.A. Boaro, and Y. Yesiltepe, et al. 2020. "Nitrogen source governs community carbon metabolism in a model hypersaline benthic phototrophic biofilm." mSystems 5, no. 3:Article No. e00260-20. PNNL-SA-145330. doi:10.1128/mSystems.00260-20

Velickovic D., V.S. Lin, A. Rivas-Ubach, C.R. Anderton, and J.J. Moran. 2020. "An approach for broad molecular imaging of the root-soil interface via indirect matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry." Soil Biology and Biochemistry 146. PNNL-SA-150080. doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2020.107804

Lin V.S., J.J. Rosnow, M.Y. McGrady, D.N. Smercina, J. Nunez, R.S. Renslow, and J.J. Moran. 2020. "Non-destructive spatial analysis of phosphatase activity and total protein distribution in the rhizosphere using a root blotting method." Soil Biology and Biochemistry 146. PNNL-SA-149591. doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2020.107820

Steinke L.A., G.W. Slysz, M.S. Lipton, C. Klatt, J.J. Moran, M.F. Romine, and J. Wood, et al. 2020. "Short-term stable isotope probing of proteins reveals taxa incorporating inorganic carbon in a hot spring microbial mat." Applied and Environmental Microbiology 86, no. 7:Article No. e01829-19. PNNL-SA-148749. doi:10.1128/AEM.01829-19


Denis E.H., P.D. Ilhardt, A.E. Tucker, N.L. Huggett, J.J. Rosnow, and J.J. Moran. 2019. "Spatially tracking carbon through the root-rhizosphere-soil system using laser ablation-IRMS." Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science 182, no. 3:401-410. PNNL-SA-135618. doi:10.1002/jpln.201800301

Ilhardt P.D., J. Nunez, E.H. Denis, J.J. Rosnow, E.J. Krogstad, R.S. Renslow, and J.J. Moran. 2019. "High-resolution elemental mapping of the root-rhizosphere-soil continuum using laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS)." Soil Biology and Biochemistry 131. PNNL-SA-137289. doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2018.12.029

Waldo N.B., B. Hunt, E. Fadely, J.J. Moran, and R.B. Neumann. 2019. "Plant Root Exudates Increase Methane Emissions through Direct and Indirect Pathways." Biogeochemistry 145, no. 1-2:213–234. PNNL-SA-147383. doi:10.1007/s10533-019-00600-6

Brislawn C.J., E.B. Graham, K.L. Dana, P.D. Ilhardt, S.J. Fansler, W.B. Chrisler, and J.B. Cliff, et al. 2019. "Forfeiting the priority effect: turnover defines biofilm community succession." The ISME Journal 13, no. 7:1865-1877. PNNL-SA-133067. doi:10.1038/s41396-019-0396-x


Moran J.J., C.G. Fraga, and M.K. Nims. 2018. "Stable-Carbon Isotope Ratios for Sourcing the Nerve-Agent Precursor Methylphosphonic Dichloride and Its Products." Talanta 186. PNNL-SA-130651. doi:10.1016/j.talanta.2018.04.021


Moran J.J., L. Whitmore, Z. Jay, R. Jennings, J. Beam, H.W. Kreuzer, and W.P. Inskeep. 2017. "Dual stable isotopes of CH4 from Yellowstone hot-springs suggest hydrothermal processes involving magmatic CO2." Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 341. PNNL-SA-121866. doi:10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2017.05.011

Mobberley J.M., S.R. Lindemann, H.C. Bernstein, J.J. Moran, R.S. Renslow, J.T. Babauta, and D. Hu, et al. 2017. "Organismal and spatial partitioning of energy and macronutrient transformations within a hypersaline mat." FEMS Microbiology Ecology 93, no. 4:Article No. fix028. PNNL-SA-124562. doi:10.1093/femsec/fix028

Bernstein H.C., C.J. Brislawn, R.S. Renslow, K.L. Dana, B.R. Morton, S.R. Lindemann, and H. Song, et al. 2017. "Trade-offs between microbiome diversity and productivity in a stratified microbial mat." The ISME Journal 11, no. 2:405-414. PNNL-SA-120993. doi:10.1038/ismej.2016.133

Douglas P., D. Stolper, J. Eiler, A. Sessions, M. Lawson, Y. Shaui, and A. Bishop, et al. 2017. "Methane Clumped Isotopes: Progress and Potential for a New Isotopic Tracer." Organic Geochemistry 113. PNNL-SA-124415. doi:10.1016/j.orggeochem.2017.07.016

Mace E.K., C.E. Aalseth, T.R. Alexander, H.O. Back, A.R. Day, E.W. Hoppe, and M.E. Keillor, et al. 2017. "Simultaneous Measurement of Tritium and Radiocarbon by Ultra-Low-Background Proportional Counting." Applied Radiation and Isotopes 126. PNNL-SA-120393. doi:10.1016/j.apradiso.2016.12.033

Jennings R., J.J. Moran, Z.J. Jay, J. Beam, L.M. Whitmore, M. Kozubal, and H.W. Kreuzer, et al. 2017. "Integration of metagenomic and stable carbon isotope evidence reveals the extent and mechanisms of carbon dioxide fixation in high-temperature microbial communities." Frontiers in Microbiology 8. PNNL-SA-119791. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2017.00088

Moran J.J., T.R. Alexander, C.E. Aalseth, H.O. Back, E.K. Mace, C.T. Overman, and A. Seifert, et al. 2017. "Improvements to sample processing and measurement to enable more widespread environmental application of tritium." Applied Radiation and Isotopes 126. PNNL-SA-120318. doi:10.1016/j.apradiso.2017.01.033

Kriesel J.M., C.N. Makarem, M.C. Phillips, J.J. Moran, M. Coleman, L. Christensen, and J.F. Kelly. 2017. "Versatile, ultra-low sample volume gas analyzer using a rapid, broad-tuning ECQCL and a hollow fiber gas cell." In Next-Generation Spectroscopic Technologies X, April 9, 2017, Anaheim, California. Proceedings of the SPIE, edited by MA Druy, et al, 10210, Article No. 1021003. Bellingham, Washington:SPIE. PNNL-SA-125504. doi:10.1117/12.2262612

Bernstein H.C., C.J. Brislawn, K.L. Dana, T.M. Flores-Wentz, A.B. Cory, S.J. Fansler, and J.K. Fredrickson, et al. 2017. "Primary and heterotrophic productivity relate to multikingdom diversity in a hypersaline mat." FEMS Microbiology Ecology 93, no. 10:Article No. fix121. PNNL-SA-127139. doi:10.1093/femsec/fix121


Zachara J.M., J.J. Moran, C.T. Resch, S.R. Lindemann, A.R. Felmy, M.E. Bowden, and A.B. Cory, et al. 2016. "Geo- and Biogeochemical Processes in a Heliothermal Hypersaline Lake." Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 181. PNNL-SA-108309. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2016.02.001

Yang H., H. Gandhi, A.J. Cornish, J.J. Moran, H.W. Kreuzer, N. Ostrom, and E.L. Hegg. 2016. "Isotopic fractionation associated with [NiFe]- and [FeFe]-hydrogenases." Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 30, no. 2:285-292. PNNL-SA-107635. doi:10.1002/rcm.7432

Bonicalzi R., C.E. Aalseth, A.R. Day, E.W. Hoppe, E.K. Mace, J.J. Moran, and C.T. Overman, et al. 2016. "Optimization of Simultaneous Tritium-Radiocarbon Internal Gas Proportional Counting." Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research. Section A, Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment 813. PNNL-SA-111865. doi:10.1016/j.nima.2015.12.062

Moran J.J., L.M. Whitmore, N.G. Isern, M.F. Romine, K.M. Riha, W.P. Inskeep, and H.W. Kreuzer. 2016. "Formaldehyde as a carbon and electron shuttle between autotroph and heterotroph populations in acidic hydrothermal vents of Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park." Extremophiles 20, no. 3:291-299. PNNL-SA-115653. doi:10.1007/s00792-016-0821-2

Mace E.K., C.E. Aalseth, A.R. Day, E.W. Hoppe, M.E. Keillor, J.J. Moran, and M.E. Panisko, et al. 2016. "First results of a simultaneous measurement of tritium and 14C in an ultra-low-background proportional counter for environmental sources of methane." Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 155-156. PNNL-SA-111748. doi:10.1016/j.jenvrad.2016.02.001

Mirjankar N.S., C.G. Fraga, A.J. Carman, and J.J. Moran. 2016. "Source Attribution of Cyanides using Anionic Impurity Profiling, Stable Isotope Ratios, Trace Elemental Analysis and Chemometrics." Analytical Chemistry 88, no. 3:1827-1834. PNNL-SA-113038. doi:10.1021/acs.analchem.5b04126

Moran J.J., M.L. Alexander, and A. Laskin. 2016. "Soil Carbon: Compositional and Isotopic Analysis." In Encyclopedia of Soil Science, 3rd Edition, edited by R Lal. Boca Raton, Florida:CRC Press. PNNL-SA-110016.


Moran J.J., C.G. Doll, H.C. Bernstein, R.S. Renslow, A.B. Cory, J.R. Hutchison, and S.R. Lindemann, et al. 2014. "Spatially tracking 13C labeled substrate (bicarbonate) accumulation in microbial communities using laser ablation isotope ratio mass spectrometry." Environmental Microbiology Reports 6, no. 6:786-791. PNNL-SA-97766. doi:10.1111/1758-2229.12211

Kreuzer H.W., E.A. Hill, J.J. Moran, R.A. Bartholomew, Y. Hui, and E.L. Hegg. 2014. "Contributions of the [NiFe]- and [FeFe]-hydrogenase to H2 production in Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 as revealed by isotope ratio analysis of evolved H2." FEMS Microbiology Letters 352, no. 1:18-24. PNNL-SA-98025. doi:10.1111/1574-6968.12361

Jennings R., L.M. Whitmore, J.J. Moran, H.W. Kreuzer, and W.P. Inskeep. 2014. "Carbon dioxide fixation by Metallosphaera yellowstonensis and acidothermophilic iron-oxidizing microbial communities from Yellowstone National Park." Applied and Environmental Microbiology 80, no. 9:2665-2671. PNNL-SA-98802. doi:10.1128/AEM.03416-13


Moran J.J., C.J. Ehrhardt, J.H. Wahl, H.W. Kreuzer, and K.L. Wahl. 2013. "Integration of stable isotope and trace contaminant concentration for enhanced forensic acetone discrimination." Talanta 116. PNNL-SA-93211. doi:10.1016/j.talanta.2013.07.015

Lindemann S.R., J.J. Moran, J.C. Stegen, R.S. Renslow, J.R. Hutchison, J.K. Cole, and A. Dohnalkova, et al. 2013. "The Epsomitic Phototrophic Microbial Mat of Hot Lake, Washington: Community Structural Responses to Seasonal Cycling." Frontiers in Microbiology 4. PNNL-SA-96936. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2013.00323


Kreuzer H.W., J. Horita, J.J. Moran, B. Tomkins, D.B. Janszen, and A.J. Carman. 2012. "Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Ratios of Sodium and Potassium Cyanide as a Forensic Signature." Journal of Forensic Sciences 57, no. 1:75-79. PNNL-SA-72316. doi:10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.01946.x

Kelly J.F., R.L. Sams, T.A. Blake, M.K. Newburn, J.J. Moran, M.L. Alexander, and H.W. Kreuzer. 2012. "A Capillary Absorption Spectrometer for Stable Carbon Isotope Ratio (13C/12C) Analysis in Very Small Samples." Review of Scientific Instruments 83, no. 2:Article No. 023101. PNNL-SA-81307. doi:10.1063/1.3680593

Moran J.J., H.W. Kreuzer, A.J. Carman, J.H. Wahl, and D.C. Duckworth. 2012. "Multiple stable isotope characterization as a forensic tool to distinguish acid scavenger samples." Journal of Forensic Sciences 57, no. 1:60-63. PNNL-SA-74537. doi:10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.01959.x

Harvey, S.D., Jarman, K.H., Moran, J.J., Sorensen, C.M., and Wright, B.W. (2012) Characterization of diesel fuel by chemical separation combined with capillary gas chromatography (GC) isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS). Talanta, 99, 262-269. 


Moran J.J., M.K. Newburn, M.L. Alexander, R.L. Sams, J.F. Kelly, and H.W. Kreuzer. 2011. "Laser ablation isotope ratio mass spectrometry for enhanced sensitivity and spatial resolution in stable isotope analysis." Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 25, no. 9:1282-1290. PNNL-SA-77914. doi:10.1002/rcm.4985


Colburn H.A., D.S. Wunschel, H.W. Kreuzer-Martin, J.J. Moran, K.C. Antolick, and A.M. Melville. 2010. "Analysis of Carbohydrate and Fatty Acid Marker Abundance in Ricin Toxin Preparations for Forensic Information." Analytical Chemistry 82, no. 14:6040-6047. PNNL-SA-70231.