Jesse McNichol

Jesse McNichol

Joint Program Student


Biological Oceanography

Office Phone: +1 508 289 3630

» CV

» Lab/Group Site

WHOI Mailing Address:

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

266 Woods Hole Rd.

MS# 52

Woods Hole, MA 02543-1050



  • B.Sc. in Biology, First-class Honours with Distinction, minor in Chinese Studies. Mount Allison University (Sackville, NB, Canada) and Zhejiang University (Hangzhou, China)
  • Thesis: Endophytic fungi of liverworts (Bryophyta) in a copper-contaminated environment
  • Ph.D. student, MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Biological Oceanography

Research Interests

  • Microbially-mediated elemental cycling and how this has contributed to biosphere evolution, mass extinctions and climate change
  • Evolution, physiology and biochemistry of chemoautotrophic bacteria/archea
  • Extremophiles, prebiotic chemistry, origin of life research

Research Statement

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.

Teaching/Volunteer Experience

  • Teaching Assistant (Sept 2007-Dec 2007) – Under the supervision of Dr. Robert Thompson, taught plant identification and ecology for Native Flora (BIO 3501, Mount Allison).
  • Chinese Language Villages Instructor (Summer 2008) – In collaboration with Karen Chung, developed a language immersion camp for teaching Mandarin Chinese to native English speakers ages 8-16 (As part of Mount Allison Summer Language Villages).
  • Instructor, Planet Performers environmental drama (2007-2008) – Under the direction of Karen Chung, taught and discussed environmental issues (biofuels, global warming) with students (grades 6-8), and created two public performances.


  • Trace metal analysis
  • Microalgal isolation, purification and culture
  • Lipid extraction, gas chromatography
  • Vascular plant identification


  • American Society for Microbiology (2013-)


  • NSERC Post-graduate scholarship M (2011-2012)
  • NSERC PGS D3 (2013-2016)


  • Mandarin Chinese
  • French
  • Spanish