Biology Professor Receives National Science Foundation (NSF) Collaborative Research Grant

Andrian P. Gajigan,  Cherise Spotkaeff, Michael Rappe, Ph.D., Olivia Nigro, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Biology Olivia Nigro, Ph.D., is a recipient of a grant from the Biological Oceanography division of the NSF for a research project entitled “Illuminating microbes and their viruses within the dark ocean crust through strain-level approaches.” The grant is a collaboration between HPU, the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, and Hartwick College in New York, and the total award is $736,259, with $223,774 coming directly to HPU. 

Nigro and graduate marine science student and undergraduate alumna Cherise Spotkaeff participated in a grant-funded research expedition over the summer on the R/V Atlantis, a Navy funded research vessel. They used a remotely operated submarine to collect hydrothermal fluids from below the seafloor, looking for novel microbes, viruses, and metabolisms. They are using the samples collected, studying the genomic signatures of the microbes living there, and trying to grow these microbes and viruses in the lab. Studying these microbes will help the researchers to understand not only the complexities associated with how microbes are able to survive in these very remote, high-temperature environments, but also how life evolved and survived on an early Earth.

From left to right: Andrian P. Gajigan (UH graduate student), Cherise Spotkaeff (HPU graduate student), Michael Rappe, Ph.D., (UH professor), Olivia Nigro, Ph.D., (HPU professor)