Montana State University

Geyser, hot spring researchers, educators meet at Yellowstone

January 9, 2008 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service

This is one of more than 10,000 active geothermal features in Yellowstone National Park. Researchers and educators who study them will gather Jan. 10-13 in Yellowstone. (Photo courtesy of MSU).   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN -- More than 100 scientists and educators from the United States and abroad will gather Jan. 10-13 in Yellowstone National Park to share their findings on the unique biology and chemistry of geysers, hot springs, mud pots and steam vents.

Some of the best-known and most active researchers involved in Yellowstone geothermal biology and geochemistry will attend the conference at the Mammoth Hotel, said organizer Bill Inskeep of Montana State University. The conference will focus on Yellowstone geothermal systems, but it will also include discussions on the sun-heated salt lakes of Egypt, salt mats in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, and the microbes that dominate Russian hot springs.

Scientists who study extreme environments are drawn to Yellowstone because it contains more active geothermal features than any other location on the planet, Inskeep said. Those features are also very diverse, he added. Geothermal environments are obviously very hot, but they offer a variety of chemical extremes, some of which are relevant to applications in bioenergy and bioprocessing.

Researchers working with NASA who are interested in the search for life on other planets examine microorganisms that thrive in the extreme environments on this planet, Inskeep said. Those may be high temperatures or extremely acidic conditions. For visitors who are curious about the numerous and often brilliant colors in geothermal systems, this group of scientists can explain how the reds, greens and yellows that appear in Yellowstone's hot springs relate to microorganisms and mineral deposits.

This is the third time since 2003 that Inskeep and his colleagues at MSU's Thermal Biology Institute have organized the conference for researchers who are part of the National Science Foundation's Research Coordination Network focused on Yellowstone's geothermal biology. Conference lectures are free and open to the public, but space is limited. Those interested in attending should contact Zack Jay at (406) 994- 6404 or For questions regarding the conference or the RCN, contact Inskeep at (406) 994-5077.

The schedule of conference lectures is:

Thursday, Jan. 10

8 p.m. -- Extreme hydrothermal explosion events in Yellowstone National Park.

Friday, Jan. 11

8:30 a.m. -- Greater Yellowstone Science Learning Center and the Yellowstone Thermal Inventory
8:50 a.m. -- Change detection of Yellowstone's active thermal areas using airborne and satellite thermal infrared sensors.
9:10 a.m. -- Chemical anatomy of the Firehole River: Results from the September 2007 synoptic sampling. Source and fate of thermal and non-thermal solutes in the Gibbon River of Yellowstone.
9:40 a.m. -- The influence of sublacustrine hydrothermal vent fluids on the geochemistry of Yellowstone Lake.
10 a.m. -- Yellowstone Lake: Genetic diversity in an aquatic, vent-impacted system.
10:20 a.m. -- Break.
10:50 a.m. -- Geochemical energy sources across Yellowstone.
11:10 a.m. -- A microbial inventory of Yellowstone thermal features. Geochemical controls on microbial community composition from varied hot spring environments.
11:40 a.m. -- GEOTHERM: The RCN relationship database focused on geothermal biology and geochemistry in Yellowstone National Park.
Noon -- Lunch. Updates on benefit sharing and research permitting in Yellowstone.
2 p.m. -- Mammoth Hot Springs: Carbonate biomineralization in response to environmental change in temperature and oxygen concentration.
2:20 p.m. -- Diversity of Chloroflexus-like organisms in an iron-depositing hot spring in Yellowstone.
2:40 p.m. -- A comparison of H2 and H2S as energy sources for primary production in an acidic geothermal spring.
3 p.m. -- Nitrogen cycling at high temperatures: Thermophilic ammonia oxidizing Archaea in Yellowstone Hot Springs.
3:20 p.m. -- Ammonia-oxidizing Archaea in terrestrial hot springs.
3:40 p.m. -- The effect of environmental conditions on the distribution of the Mercuric Reductase gene in mercury-enriched acidic and circumneutral hot springs in Yellowstone National Park.
4 p.m. -- Isolation and characterization of early evolving mercury resistant bacteria in Yellowstone.
4:20 p.m. -- The diversity of the thermo-acidophilic Cyanidiales in Yellowstone, Japan, New Zealand, Iceland and the Philippines.

Saturday, Jan. 12

8:20 a.m. -- Insights into biofilm function and variability from environmental genomes and geochemistry.
8:40 a.m. -- Comparative metagenomic analysis of Aquificales-dominated YNP hot springs.
9 a.m. -- Assessing population level functional diversity in a microbial community by comparative genomic and metagenomic analyses.
9:20 a.m. -- Metagenomic approaches to studying the functional diversity of filamentous anoxygenic phototrophs in hot spring microbial mats.
9:40 a.m. -- Genetic basis of RubisCO adaptation at the thermal limit of photoautotrophy
10 a.m. -- Break.
10:20 a.m. -- Candidatus Chloracidobacterium thermophilum: the first chlorophototrophic Acidobacterium
10:40 a.m. -- Genomic and metagenomic analysis of Archaeal host and virus populations from Yellowstone's high temperature acidic environments.
11 a.m. -- Using CRISPRs to understand local adaptation in host viral relationships.
11:20 a.m. -- A proteomics perspective of stress response in Sulfolobus solfataricus.
11:40 a.m. -- Microbial hosts with limited hospitality -- a new RNA-based interference system.
Noon -- Assembly of hot springs viral metagenomes to develop improved DNA polymerases.
12:30 pm. -- Lunch. RCN projects and priorities: YNP Metagenomc project

Sunday, Jan. 13

8:20 a.m. -- Hydrothermal systems: Islands of microbial diversity.
8:40 a.m. -- Metagenomics in a hypersaline microbial mat.
9 a.m. -- Microbially-dominated terrestrial hot spring mineral assemblages in Kamchatka Russia.
9:20 a.m. -- Geochemistry and microbiology of Great Basin Hot Springs. Are they different from Yellowstone Springs?
9:40 a.m. -- Life at the Edge: Halo-alkalithermophiles from sun-heated salt lakes in Egypt.
10 a.m. -- Break.
10:30 a.m. -- The astrobiology biogeocatalysis Research Center at MSU: The role of iron-sulfur compounds in the transition from the nonliving to the living world.
10:50 a.m. -- Bridging geothermal microbiology with the bioenergy program through an integrated "Omics" platform.
11:10 a.m. -- 21st century frontiers in microbial genomics and biotechnology.
11:30 a.m. -- Closing lunch. Discuss future directions, RCN priorities.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or