delware environmental institute

Microbe quest: Geologist investigates microbial communities at underwater volcano near Hawaii

Microbe quest:  Geologist investigates microbial communities at underwater volcano near Hawaii

Hawaii was created by underwater volcanoes that gradually built upwards during eruptions until they popped out above the ocean. The next island to form is waiting 3,000 feet underwater as a seamount named Loihi, which occasionally rumbles out earthquakes and should surface hundreds of thousands of years from now.

Until then, Loihi’s inhabitants are not hula girls and hibiscus flowers, but rather bacteria and other microbes. The University of Delaware’s Clara Chan, assistant professor of geological sciences in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, and graduate student Sean McAllister are on a 17-day research cruise there to study these microbial communities and their roles in this unusual setting.