Thermophile Desulfotomaculum in various stages of growth
Many environmental sites studied by the Orphan lab are populated by different types of extremophiles, from the psychrophilic methanotrophs found at methane seep sites to the thermophiles inhabiting hydrothermal vents and sediment at Pescadero Basin. Numerous research themes tie indirectly with understanding and examining life in these extreme environments.
One consideration when cultivating microbes from the deep ocean is how to mimic their natural environment in a laboratory setting. One important environmental parameter is pressure. Utilizing hydrostatic pressure in culture is increasingly recognized as a critical parameter for understanding strategies of deep-sea microbes, with known effects on metabolic behavior, viability, and biomolecules, including increasing the solubility of gaseous energy sources such as methane.
In the Orphan lab, high pressure vessels are to mimic the in situ pressure found at several of the field sites and understanding its effects on microbial activity. Work has also focused on developing AGTIS (Autonomous Gas-Tight Incubating Sampler) to collect and incubate water samples at in situ pressure conditions.