Research

Microbes

The Thermal Biology Institute (TBI) is recognized worldwide as a “Center of Excellence” in thermophile research and the study of life in thermal features. TBI’s research is centered on the biology and interrelated physical and chemical processes of the geothermal environments in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The research, education, and outreach activities of TBI have been the catalyst for high profile research, education and conservation successes since the inception of TBI in 1999, emphasizing a long tradition of high quality research in one of the world’s most unique environments …Yellowstone National Park.

TBI has produced an aggressive research thrust focused on geochemistry and geothermal biology. The breadth of our research programs reflect the diversity of thermal environments found in Yellowstone, including projects focused on thermotolerant plants, fungi, protozoans, bacteria, archaea and viruses and the understanding of biochemical mechanisms and geochemical processes occurring at high temperatures.

Our goal at the Thermal Biology Institute is to conduct cutting edge research focused on the biology of geothermal systems, to promote coordination and collaboration among academicians and resource agencies, and to contribute to the advancement of education and public awareness of the biocomplexity of geothermal environments. TBI facilitates research and discovery in YNP and as such, has developed a rich and longstanding relationship with the National Park Service at YNP. TBI was instrumental in the “Leave No Trace” research pamphlet and is a recent member of the Yellowstone Association to promote education and outreach regarding thermal features of YNP. TBI faculty and students often partner with the Park Service and the Yellowstone Association on research and outreach endeavors. The support of our Yellowstone partners is key in our research and education efforts.

 

West Yellowstone Map
Here are a few of the thermal areas TBI investigators are
actively researching within Yellowstone National Park. [Zoom]

TBI investigators are approaching profound fundamental and applied research- from answering questions concerning the very nature of species in microbial communities to the development of applied technologies. TBI research represents a diverse spectrum of relevant research, discoveries and ingenuity. Investigators and Affiliates are currently collaboration on pertinent topical issues including biofuels, health of coral reef ecosystems, viruses, and bioremediation. Here is a sampling of research within TBI: genomics, metabolic engineering, biofilms, hydrogen metabolism, sulfur reduction, nuclear magnetic resonance structural biology, proteomics, metal reduction and many others centered around microbes found in Yellowstone and other extreme environments. TBI serves as a catalyst to bring together national and international researchers. We are expanding beyond our own campus with the addition of four prestigious affiliate faculty members: Bill Apel, Idaho National Lab; Don Bryant, Pennsylvania State University; Bruce Fouke, University of Illinois, and John van der Oost, Wageningen University, the Netherlands. The complementary and interdisciplinary science of all involved has provided a basis for developing new research lines on thermophiles and for strengthening collaborations at several levels: genetics, functional genomics, structural biology, and ecology.