William (Wil) Leavitt is a geochemist and microbiologist. Leavitt’s group combines classical and novel experimental techniques from microbiology with high-precision tools from stable isotope geochemistry to address major knowledge gaps in the microbial cycling of life-critical elements (hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus). Leavitt and his lab members develop and employ long-term continuous cultivation approaches to quantify the environmental constraints on molecular records of past climate, as well as large-scale cultivation of ocean- and lake-dwelling microbes to determine the isotopic signatures they imprint on greenhouse gases. The overarching goal of all studies in the lab is to improve our understanding of how microbes have influenced elemental cycles in the past, how they dictate modern fluxes of matter and energy and how they may respond in future oceans.
Leavitt’s abiding interest in earth sciences was cultivated by his geologist parents, who guided his explorations of the high desert of Reno, Nevada, and his grandmother, who introduced him to tidepools in Monterey Bay, California. He received his B.A. in environmental microbiology and molecular evolution from Hampshire College in 2006, his M.A. in organismic and evolutionary biology in 2009, and his Ph.D. in earth and planetary sciences from Harvard University in 2014. He’s also an alum of Microbial Diversity at the Marine Biological Laboratory (2008). Before joining Dartmouth College, he was the Fossett Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis (2014-2016). Now he serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Chemistry.