TBI graduate student conducting
research in YNP backcountry

TBI is currently composed of eighteen faculty representing expertise in biochemistry, geochemistry, microbiology, virology, mycology, ecology, plant physiology, environmental physics, and chemical and biological engineering. In addition to an emphasis on multidisciplinary research, TBI promotes interdisciplinary learning through a strong education component that incorporates undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral training. TBI also includes a robust outreach program focused on K-12 education, and "teaching the teachers" in our continuing education summer course as part of MSU’s Master of Science in Science Education program (MSSE).

TBI faculty attracts top-tier undergraduate and graduate students to employ in their labs. TBI continues to train the next generation of interdisciplinary researchers; many of our students have gone on to find success in national labs, private industry and academia. Students learn in a variety of settings-the classroom, the lab, and the ultimate filed site, Yellowstone National Park.


Student Spotlight

Melody Lindsay

  Melody Lindsay

Melody at the Upper Falls in the
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Melody is a 2nd year doctoral student at Montana State University in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in Dr. Eric Boyd’s lab.  Her primary thesis project is directed at identifying the influence of geological hydrogen (H2) has on the distribution and diversification of H2-metabolizing organisms in high temperature hot spring environments present in Yellowstone National Park.  Using geochemical data, microcosm-based in situ rates of hydrogenase-catalyzed H2 production and consumption, and RNA analyses, this project will permit a greater understanding of how H2 cycling is linked with geochemical variation in the environment, the active proteins that are involved in H2 metabolisms, and the diversification of organisms that encode hydrogenase enzymes proteins.   

In addition to her primary thesis project, she has initiated a side project that investigates the diversity and biogeochemical cycling within stromatolite structures of Great Salt Lake, Utah.  She is currently focused on elucidating the organisms that function in mercury methylation and other metabolic activities. 

Melody grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii and graduated from Princeton University in 2013 with an A.B. degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, where she first became interested in environmental geomicrobiology through her undergraduate research project which combined molecular and geochemical techniques to investigate deep terrestrial subsurface microbial life with Dr. Tullis Onstott.  When she is not in the lab, you can find her playing harp around Montana, ringing handbells with the Bells of the Bridgers, or simply going to Yellowstone for fun!  

Maximilliano "Max" Amenabar


Yellowstone National Park

Max grew up in Santiago, Chile and graduated from Universidad of Santiago de Chile with a BS degree in Biochemistry.  When he is not in lab, you can find him riding his bicycle, going hiking, and climbing near Bozeman. Max is a third year doctoral candidate in the Microbiology and Immunology Department at Montana State University. His thesis project focuses on the physiology and ecology of extremophiles. His current work focuses on microbes that live in high temperature (above 70oC) and low pH hot springs and fumaroles inYellowstone National Park. His research is directed at identifying the role of thermoacidophiles in the coupled cycling of sulfur and iron in these environments. In particular, he is keenly interested in understanding the contribution of elemental sulfur disproportionation to iron cycling in hot spring environments.  To achieve this goal, he combines both culture-dependent and culture-independent techniques to link laboratory physiological measurements with organisms as they are distributed in hot spring environments. In addition to his experience in the lab, Max really enjoys conducting field work in Yellowstone and going on scientific expeditions around the world. Recently he was part of the Long Coring expedition to the North Atlantic Ocean on the R/V Knorr (Cruise KN223) and prior to this, took part in numerous expeditions to Antarctica.

Michelle Meagher

Michelle Meagher

Michelle is currently a senior at MSU studying chemical and biological engineering, and will soon be participating in an NSF REU summer research program in Manhattan, KS, focusing on sustainable energy.

Michelle came to MSU because of the excellent labs that frequently include undergraduate students in research projects. She has been participating in undergraduate research sponsored by Dr. Brent Peyton for two years through the Center for Biofilm Engineering and the Thermal Biology Institute. She has been fortunate to participate in some excellent projects, and is currently working on the phylogenetic analysis and cultivation of novel thermophilic archaea from alkaline springs in Yellowstone National Park. This project has even included field work in Yellowstone, which was a unique and incredible experience that she felt she couldn’t have had anywhere else.

Michelle has gained a great amount of experience in presenting research and communicating with other scientists that will help extensively in her future. She aspires to pursue a Ph.D. in biological engineering that incudes research. 


Summer Course

Each summer, The Thermal Biology Institute offers a course through the Master of Science in Science Education (MSSE)

LRES 557-MB 547-01 Thermal Biology in Yellowstone National Park (2 credit).

This course will provide a survey of the ecology of important organisms common in thermal habitats of Yellowstone National Park, including a review of different life forms and the physical and chemical habitats that define their environment. The course is structured to provide (1) a basic understanding of the ecology of a variety of life forms in thermal habitats, (2) a survey of observational techniques and hands-on activities appropriate for science educators, and (3) field trips to visit and characterize several geothermal habitats environments. Fundamental principles of thermal biology will be emphasized during lectures on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. This class will have a two day field trip on Wednesday and Thursday to Yellowstone National Park, with an overnight TENT camp experience at Madison Campground. Two days in the field will be used to visit, discuss, sample and characterize diverse geothermal habitats in Yellowstone National Park. .




MSSE Field Course photos