Welcome to the de la Torre Laboratory Website
Our research focuses on the ecology and evolution of microorganisms living in high temperature environments, particularly terrestrial hot springs. We are interested in how environmental conditions (chemistry, pH, available nutrients) and evolutionary history influence the composition and function of microbial communities in these extreme environments, with special attention to the contribution of these microorganisms to the Carbon and Nitrogen biogeochemical cycles.
Our work is at the exciting intersection of many disciplines including ecology, evolution, genomics, geobiology and geochemistry. We have ongoing research projects in Yellowstone National Park, California, Nevada and China, and have been working closely with researchers at the University of Washington, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Montana State University, Arizona State University, Northern Arisona University and UC Davis. Research projects in the lab are amenable to both undergraduate and graduate students.
Our lab studies a group of microorganisms called the Archaea. We are particularly interested in a group of Archaea that make their living by oxidizing ammonia to nitrite. These Ammonia-Oxidizing Archaea (AOA) are extrmeley abundant in marine environments, with some scientists estimating they account for nearly 20% of all the bacterioplankton in the world's oceans. Because of their huge numbers, it is believed that these AOA are major players in global Carbon and Nitrogen cycles.
Recently, we have identified relatives of these marine AOA living in the hydrothermal hot springs in Yellowstone National Park. We are currently studying the physiology and genomics of these thermophilic AOA to get a better understanding of the ecological distribution and evolution of the AOA.