Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Discovery Lecture Series

Friday, October 13, 2023
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

What’s that smell? Studies of Sulfur Vent Biofilm Communities at White Point Beach, CA
by Dr. Jesse Dillon, California State University, Long Beach
Research in hydrothermal vents in the deep-sea has revealed amazing diversity of microorganisms relying on chemical energy instead of sunlight. These communities form visible biofilms and also form symbiotic relationships with animals like the famous tube worm Riftia pachyptila. However, studying these vents is quite challenging due to the difficulty and cost of sending submersibles or remotely operated vehicles to visit them and collect samples. The shallow-sea hydrothermal vents at White Point (WP) in Palos Verdes Peninsula (PVP) provide a much easier location to access similar types of vents, which ironically, are less well studied. Like their deep-sea counterparts, they release hydrogen sulfide which fuels the metabolism of the microbes that live there. The WP vents support fluffy white biofilms which help give the location its name and are found in both the rocky intertidal and subtidal zone along the PVP. A key question is how similar are these biofilm communities to deep-sea vents? and are there differences between the intertidal where conditions change every day with the tides and more stable subtidal vents? This presentation will describe findings from a series of studies by students in my lab over the last decade using a combination of microscopy, DNA sequencing and radiotracer techniques to address these questions.

Dr. Jesse Dillon is a Professor and Chair of the Biological Sciences Department at California State University, Long Beach. He graduated with a degree in Environmental Science from Wesleyan University in 1994. He received his PhD in 2000 at the University of Oregon for work with Dr. Richard Castenholz investigating the physiological effects of UV radiation on cyanobacteria found in hot springs and on desert rocks. From 2000-2003 he was a post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. David Stahl in the University of Washington’s Astrobiology Program where he studied the ecological and evolutionary relationships among microbes in extreme environments. He joined the CSULB faculty in January 2004, where he primarily teaches classes in marine microbiology and microbial ecology. Students in his research laboratory study microbes in coastal habitats including salt marshes, near-shore hydrothermal vents and inside the guts of burrowing heart urchins. In addition to his duties in the department, he currently serves as a Principal Investigator for the NIH-funded CSULB BUILD Initiative which aims to increase the diversity of students pursuing careers in biomedical research.

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