Located just west of Los Angeles, the topography of the Santa Monica Basin is a product of tectonic activity between the North American and Pacific plates. The Orphan Lab studies ecology and microbial diversity of the methane seeps found here, characterized by colorful bacterial mats and a variety of animals.
Monterey Bay Canyon (Whalefalls and Methane Seeps)
Cold methane seep sites were discovered off the coast of California in the Monterey Canyon. They were identified by the presence of patches of clams, which are macrofauna typically associated with methane seep sites. One of the key processes in these seep sites is anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM). AOM is performed by anaerobic methanotrophic archaea (ANME) in syntrophic consortia with sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB).
Caltech Kerckhoff Marine Laboratory
Microbial Processes in the Seagrass Rhizosphere: Blue carbon burial & greenhouse gas emissions. Pilot project funded by Caltech’s Resnick Sustainability Institute
S. Pescadero Basin (Sedimented Hydrothermal Vents)
The Auka and JaichMaa ja'ag vent fields are the deepest known hydrothermal vents in the Pacific Ocean and are located in Pescadero Basin at the southern tip of the Gulf of California, Mexico. Sediment hosted carbonate chimneys and platforms at the location of hydrothermal fluid discharge are their prominent features. The Orphan lab studies both the sediment and rock hosted microbial communities of Pescadero Basin vents.
Costa Rica Margin (Mud Volcanoes and Seamounts)
Due to their tectonic underpinnings, the methane seeps west of Costa Rica represent unique intermediates between traditional seeps and hydrothermal vents. A handful of endemic animal species, including the Costa Rica Yeti Crab, live at these sites, supported by the methane-oxidation activity of ANME.
Lost Hammer (Brine Springs)
High in the Canadian Arctic, ultracold methane-rich brine springs exist on the remote Axel Heiberg Island. The Lost Hammer springs site represents one of the coldest environments known to support anaerobic methane-oxidizing archaea. In the Orphan Lab, we are studying this exobiology-relevant environment in collaboration with Dr. Halley Sapers and Canadian colleagues to better understand the physiology and unique adaptations of these polyextremophilic anaerobic methanotrophs (ANME) at temperatures below freezing.
Mono Lake (Hypersaline Alkaline Lake)
Mono Lake (CA), a closed basin lake with pH ~10, is dominated by alkaliphiles. Usually monomictic, Mono Lake can enter intense multi-year stratification after a winter of heavy snowfall, causing dramatic changes in these microbial communities. The Orphan lab studies Mono lake through the International Geobiology Course, in collaboration with the Sessions and Fischer labs at Caltech