Biology Professor Researches Yellowstone’s Hydrothermal Fluids

Biology Professor Researches Yellowstone’s Hydrothermal Fluids

Olivia Nigro

Assistant Professor of Biology Olivia Nigro, Ph.D., co-authored a paper entitled "Sulfur cycling and host-virus interactions in Aquificales-dominated biofilms from Yellowstone's hottest ecosystems" published in October in the journal International Society for Microbial Ecology.

Nigro, a microbial ecologist, collaborated with scientists from Montana State University on this research to better understand the interactions between viruses and microbes that live at up to 160 degrees C. She took the role to help understand the relationships between viruses and microorganisms in the hydrothermal fluids from Yellowstone National Park.   

"This study helps us to understand how life functions in extreme environments, at the limits of where life can exist, as well as helps us to understand how life formed," Nigro said. “I am interested in terrestrial geothermal systems as they are analogous to their deep sea counter-parts, but a lot easier to access. I am also interested in what this means in terms of alternative energy sources, as well as the origin of life questions.”

At Hawai'i Pacific University, Nigro teaches General Biology, Geological Oceanography, and General Oceanography and is the Master of Science in Marine Science program director. She engages in research with students, including Master of Science in Marine Science student Cherise Spotkaeff and Isabelle Yazel Eiser (Biochemistry '21). Spotkaeff had the opportunity to participate with Nigro on a 2019 research expedition on the Research Vessel Atlantis, studying an underwater volcanic mountain range along the coast of Washington and Oregon. Nigro mentors Yazel Eiser, who received a 2021 grant from the HPU Undergraduate Infrastructure Student Research Center to conduct novel research on the deadly bacteria Vibrio vulnificus, found in brackish water and is growing widely in Hawai'i.