Patricia L. Siering

Patricia and her husband Mark share a passion for the study of bacteria. They are a unique research couple dedicated to the study of zany extremophiles. They met in the early 1990s as graduate students at the Ivy League's famed Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. He was examining how microbes break down pollutants and she was probing the interactions between bacteria and metals in wetlands.

"It was love in the lab!" Patricia says with a grin.

HSU undergrads and graduate students take part in the couple's research of the abundance of microscopic organisms in Lassen's hot pools and boiling lakes. The teams deploy a remote-controlled boat to collect samples in different parts of the scalding water.

Patricia is devoted to getting students personally involved. "I teach most of my own lab sections and I get to know my students individually as they progress through their careers at HSU and after."

She adds: "Like most of the faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences, I actively engage students in all aspects of my research. I feel privileged to participate in students' journeys in science."

The Humboldt Extreme Acidophile Team (HEAT) has been exploring Lassen since 1999 and Patricia and Mark, joined by their HSU students, are expanding our understanding of the extraordinary role extremophiles play in the planet's life — and quite possibly the mysterious life hidden on planets beyond.

Romancing the micro-critters…studying incredible, invisible creatures that live in boiling acid pools and lakes. »

Yes, Patricia Siering finds real romance in taking her students on field trips to research micro-organisms. "I get to excite undergraduates about how cool life really is!" Ironically, that cool life resides in extremely hot environments. She is working with microbiologists at Portland State University and CSU Chico to build a microbial observatory at Boiling Springs Lake, the largest hot spring in North America in Northern California's Lassen Volcanic National Park.

An award-winning microbiologist, Patricia explores extreme environment microorganisms in California's Lassen Volcanic National Park. »

Patricia and her husband, Mark Wilson, also an HSU biology professor, are part of an illustrious intercollegiate team funded by a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant to study micro-critters, known formally as extremophiles. It's a five-year collaboration that will enable science to understand much more about organisms that dwell in extreme environments, providing new insights into biodiversity and the evolution of life on earth. This fascinating research also points to where scientists might best search the heavens for life on other planets.

Patricia loves living on the Redwood Coast. "We are in a Mecca of environmental diversity." »

Given the sheer variety of the Redwood Coast's life forms, natural habitats and microclimates, Patricia and her students can share vast and unique opportunities for first-hand field research. As she emphasizes, "Our undergraduates explore biology literally right outside the classroom. Their research experiences are exceptionally diverse."

Patricia L. Siering
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences