| Jesse McNichol|
Joint Program Student
Office Phone: +1 508 289 3630
» Lab/Group Site
I have always been interested in ecology and the evolution of life on Earth and this passion led me to Mount Allison University for my bachelor of science, where I studied microbiology, ecology, paleontology, and molecular biology. There, I became captivated by research on hydrothermal vent ecosystems, where chemolithoautotrophic microbes – those that use only reduced inorganic chemicals to drive their growth – dominate like nowhere else on earth.
I am fortunate to have been admitted to the MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Biological Oceanography where I work with Dr. Stefan Sievert to study chemolithoautotrophs both in the lab and in the natural environment. We are currently working to culture a bacterium isolated from salt marsh sediments (Sulfurimonas denitrificans) that is a close analogue to similar organisms that exist at deep-sea hydrothermal vents. This organism is able to thrive in a dynamic chemical environment, and we are trying to understand how this organism adapts to changing conditions by measuring the expression of genes under different growth conditions using RT-qPCR.
In spring 2013, I will take part in a cruise to a hydrothermal vent field in the Pacific, the East Pacific Rise at 9°N, where we will try and understand the role of these diverse microorganisms in the natural environment. We will take fluid samples containing microbes at diffuse-flow vents (2.5km below the surface), return them to our research vessel still under pressure, and incubate them under simulated natural conditions. We will investigate which organisms grow by single cell genomics and NANO-SIMS, which measures the activity of individual microbes by imaging how much of a labeled substrate is incorporated into each cell. This research will give us a much broader picture of the ecology of hydrothermal vents, and may allow us to make conclusions about their importance in the ocean as a whole.