Where are you from and what is your role in Extreme 2002?
My name is Laura Zirelli. I am from the Reno, Nevada, area and work at the Desert Research Institute (DRI) Molecular Microbial Ecology Laboratory as a technician. I have been working in environmental labs for approximately 10 years and have always had an affinity for marine science, especially deep-sea biology. The mysteries of the deep fascinate me to no end!
My role in the Extreme 2002 cruise will be working with a team that studies the ribonucleic acids (RNA) that cells use to build proteins. We will extract RNA from bacteria that live symbiotically with the tube-dwelling polychaete, Alvinella pompejana, found in deep-sea hydrothermal vents.
The samples will then be sent back to DRI for further research as part of the Alvinella Metagenome Biocomplexity project. These samples will be used to help study certain genes that the bacteria might use to produce particular proteins. This work will lead to a better understanding of the metabolic capabilities and symbiotic relationship between the bacteria and their host.
This research may provide further insight as to how organisms adapt to extreme environments. Because hydrothermal vents are similar to the conditions of early Earth, it might also provide a better understanding as to the evolutionary history of bacteria.Editor's Note: Laura is shown in this photo with her dog, Lily, a miniature Australian shepherd. Laura says she wishes she could "put Lily in her pocket " and take her on the Extreme 2002 cruise!