College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
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Jesse Dillon

Associate Professor

Office: MIC 302D

Office Phone: 562-985-4824




Research Interests:
Microbial ecology and evolution, extremophiles 

Current Research:
Extreme environment microbial communities

Extreme environments foster the growth of complex microbial mat communities. These mats are morphologically dominated by photosynthetic bacteria, but include microbes engaged in most major biogeochemical pathways including the sulfur, nitrogen and carbon cycles.  Modern microbial mats are thought to be analogs of prokaryotic assemblages that formed fossil stromatolites 2-3.5 billion years ago. 

Our lab studies microbial communities in hot springs in Yellowstone National Park, WY and in hypersaline evaporation ponds in Baja, MX.  Our main goal in both field sites is investigating the ecological role that specific groups of bacteria including cyanobacteria (oxygenic phototrophs) and sulfate-reducing bacteria (anaerobic respirers) play in these mat communities and how they have adapted to these environments. We use a combination of molecular biological tools and rate measurements to characterize these communities and their activity in these environments.  Additionally, isolation of pure cultures allows the controlled study of these microbes during ecophysiological experiments.

Specifically we are aiming to:

  1. Identify major functional groups in these systems using molecular tools.
  2. Map community population structure in these systems.
  3. Correlate changes in microbial diversity and activity with changes in geochemical parameters over a diel period.
  4. Examine environmental tolerances of microbes isolated from extreme environments.

Projects are available for both undergraduate and Master’s students.