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McDermott Lab

Research in the McDermott lab investigates the aqueous and volatile geochemistry and biogeochemistry of seafloor hydrothermal vents and ancient terrestrial fracture waters tapped by deep mines. These systems link fundamental geological and biological processes that sustain microbial life in the largely unexplored deep subsurface biosphere, and they represent modern analogues of environments that may have played a critical role in the origin of life on the early Earth. Much of our work is interdisciplinary. Collaborations with microbiologists and geologists enrich our understanding of these complex systems. We use a suite of geochemical tools, from isotopic characterization and abundance analyses to thermodynamic assessments, to reveal the origin of carbon and sulfur-containing compounds in deep vent and mine fluids.  


Are these compounds generated by living things, or can they form without any contribution from life?


The team is growing.  We are looking for PhD students and postdocs to join the lab at Lehigh University. Please get in touch at jill [dot] mcdermott [at] lehigh [dot] edu.


Current Members

Jill McDermott
Center Director
Principal Investigator

F. Hook Associate Professor
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Jill is a Chemical Oceanographer trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of New Hampshire.

Kelden Pehr
Postdoctoral Research Fellow

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Kelden is an Organic Geochemist trained at the University of California Irvine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jada Siverand
NSF Graduate Research Fellow

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Jada is interested in exploring fluid-rock interactions and the geochemistry of hydrothermal vent systems

Esmira Bibaj
Graduate Researcher
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Esmira is interested in examining the biogeochemistry of hydrothermal vent systems​.

Jessica Rodgers
Graduate Researcher
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Jess is starting in the Fall of 2023.

Former Members

William Dowd
Graduate Researcher
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William graduated with a Ph.D. from Lehigh University and went to work as an Environmental Chemist at Gradient in Boston, Massachusetts.

Connor Downing
Graduate Researcher

Connor graduated with a Masters from Lehigh University and went to work at Cooper Environmental.

Susan Ambrose
Graduate Researcher
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Susan graduated with a Masters from Lehigh University and went to work as an Environmental Chemist at M.J. Reider Associates

Tiffany Baumann
Undergraduate Researcher
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Tiffany went on to pursue a Masters in Earth and Environmental Science at Lehigh University

Talia Rodkey
Undergraduate Researcher
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Talia went to work as an Applications and Support Engineer at Bruker Alicona

Grant Loescher
Undergraduate Researcher
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Grant went on to pursue a Masters in Geological Science at the Arizona State University



From the deep ocean, to deep within the Earth's crust.

Research cruises

2024   R/V Atlantis/HOV Alvin and AUV Sentry expedition (AT50-21) to 9°50’N East Pacific Rise.

2023   R/V Falkor (too)/ROV Subastian expedition (FKt230812) to the Eastern Galapagos Spreading Center.

2023   R/V Atlantis/HOV Alvin and AUV Sentry expedition (AT50-07) to 9°50’N East Pacific Rise.

2021   R/V Roger Revelle/ROV Jason and AUV Sentry expedition (RR2102) to 9°50’N East Pacific Rise.

2019   R/V Manta/AUV Mesobot to the Gulf or Mexico.

2019   R/V Pelican/ROV Global Explorer to the Gulf of Mexico

2018   R/V JOIDES Resolution (Expedition #376) to Brothers Arc Volcano 

2017   E/V Nautilus/ROV Hercules to Pescadero Basin

2016   R/V Polarstern/HROV Nereid Under Ice to Gakkel Ridge

2013    R/V Falkor/HROV Nereus expedition (FK008) to Mid-Cayman Rise

2012    R/V Atlantis/ROV Jason II expedition (AT18-16) to Mid-Cayman Rise

2011    R/V Okeanos Explorer/ROV Little Hercules expedition to Mid-Cayman Rise (link; via tele-presence)        

2009    R/V Cape Hatteras/HROV Nereus expedition to Mid-Cayman Rise

2007    R/V Atlantis/DSV Alvin expedition (AT15-27) to 9°50’N East Pacific Rise (starboard observer on Alvin dive #4380)

2006    R/V Atlantis/DSV Alvin expedition (AT15-13) to 9°50’N East Pacific Rise (starboard observer on Alvin dive #4279)

2006    R/V Atlantis/DSV Alvin expedition (AT15-06) to 9°50’N East Pacific Rise

Expeditions on land

2022    Fluid and gas sampling at Soudan Mine Underground State Park, MN, USA

2019    Fluid and gas sampling at Soudan Mine Underground State Park, MN, USA
2016    Rock and gas sampling expedition at gold mine in Preissac, QC, Canada
2016    Rock and fluid sampling expedition at base metal mine in Sudbury, ON, Canada ​
2015    Rock, fluid and gas sampling expedition at base metal mine in Timmins, ON, Canada
2015    Rock core and fluid sampling campaign at Grimsel Test Site, Switzerland
2014    Borehole fluid and gas sampling expedition at base metal mine in Sudbury, ON, Canada 



Schuler, C. J., Patsis, A., Alexander, S. C., Hsu, D., Dowd, W. S., Lee, W., Matzen, S. L., Marcus, A. M., Sheik, C. S., McDermott, J., Kang, P. K., Santelli C. M., Toner, B. M. (2024). Densely populated biofilms and linked iron and sulfur cycles in the fractured-rock continental subsurface. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. https://doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2024.04.019


Berrios-Rivera N., Gee J.S., Parnell-Turner R., Maher S.,Wu J.-N., Fornari D.J., Tivey M., Marjanović M., Barreyre T., McDermott J.M. (2023) Jill McDermott (2023) Significance of Short‐Wavelength Magnetic Anomaly Low Along the East Pacific Rise Axis, 9° 50′ N, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 24, e2023GC010875.

Wu J.-N., Parnell-Turner R., Fornari D.J., Berrios-Rivera N., Barreyre T., McDermott J.M. (2023) The Role of On- and off-Axis Faults and Fissures during Eruption Cycles and Crustal Accretion at 9°50’N, East Pacific Rise, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 24, e2022GC010794.


Govindarajan A.F. , L. McCartin, A. Adams, E. Allane, M. Belani, R. Francolinig, J. Fujii, A. Kukulya, F. Marin, K. Tradd, D. Yoerger⚓︎, J. McDermott & S. Herrera (2022) Improved biodiversity detection using a large-volume environmental DNA sampler with in situ filtration and implications for marine eDNA sampling strategies. Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 189: 103871, doi: 10.1101/2022.01.12.475892

Dowd W.S, C.J. Schuler, C.M. Santelli, B.M. Toner, C.S. Sheik, K. Pehr, J.M. McDermott (2022) Potential energy sources for the deep continental biosphere in isolated anoxic brines. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 595(2022), 117720, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2022.117720 PDF.

McDermott J. M., R. Parnell-Turner, T. Barreyre, S. Herrera, C. Downing, N. Pittoors, K. Pehr, S. Vohsen, W. Dowd, J. Wu, M. Marjanovic & D. Fornari (2022) Discovery of Active Off-Axis Hydrothermal Vents at 9°54’N East Pacific Rise. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 119 (30) e2205602119, doi: 10.1073/pnas.2205602119. PDF.

Pereira S.I., Diehl A., McDermott J.M., Pape T., Klose L., Strauss H., Bohrmann G., Bach W. (2022) Geochemistry of hydrothermal fluids from the E2-segment of the East Scotia Ridge: Magmatic input, reaction zone processes, fluid mixing regimes and bioenergetic landscapes, Frontiers in Marine Sciences. 9, 765648, doi: 10.3389/fmars.2022.765648. PDF.


McCartin L., S. Vohsen, S. Ambrose, M. Layden, C. McFadden, E. Cordes, J. McDermott & S. Herrera (2022) Temperature Controls eDNA Persistence Across Physicochemical Conditions in Seawater. Environmental Science & Technology. 56(12), 8629–8639, doi: 10.1021/acs.est.2c01672. PDF.


Wu J.-N., Parnell-Turner R., Fornari D., Kurras G., Berrios-Rivera N., Barreyre T., McDermott J.M. (2022) Extent and Volume of Lava Flows Erupted at 9°50'N, East Pacific Rise in 2005-2006 from Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Surveys, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 23, e2021GC010213, doi: 10.1029/2021GC010213. PDF.


Sherwood Lollar B., Heuer V.B., McDermott J., Tille S., Warr O., Moran J.J., Telling J., Hinrichs K-U (2021) A window into the abiotic carbon cycle–Acetate and formate in fracture waters in 2.7 billion year-old host rocks of the Canadian Shield, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 294, 95-314doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2020.11.026 PDF.

McDermott J.M., Sylva S.P., Ono S., German C.R., Seewald J.S. (2020) Abiotic redox reactions in hydrothermal mixing zones: Decreased energy availability for the subsurface biosphere, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(34), 20453-20461 doi: 10.1073/pnas.2003108117. PDF.

de Ronde, C.E.J., Humphris, S.E., Höfig, T.W., Reyes, A.G., and the IODP Expedition 376 Scientists (including Brandl P.A., Cai L., Cai Y., Caratori Tontini F., Deans J.R., Farough A., Jamieson J.W., Kolandaivelu K.P., Kutovaya A., Labonté J., Martin A.J., Massiot C., McDermott J.M., McIntosh I.M., Nozaki T., Pellizari V.H., Roberts S., Rouxel O., Schlicht L.E.M., Seo J.H., Straub S.M., Strehlow K., Takai K., Tanner D., Tepley III F.J., Zhang C.) (2019) Critical role of caldera collapse in the formation of seafloor mineralization: The case of Brothers volcano, Geology, 47(8), 762-766, doi 10.1130/G46047.1 PDF.

Wygel C.M., Peters S.C., McDermott and Sahagian D.L. (2019) Bubbles and Dust: Experimental Results of Dissolution Rates of Metal Salts and Glasses From Volcanic Ash Deposits in Terms of Surface Area, Chemistry, and Human Health Impacts. GeoHealth, 3(11), 338-355. PDF.

McDermott J.M., Sylva S.P., Ono, S., German C.R. and Seewald J.S. (2018) Geochemistry of fluids from Earth's deepest ridge-crest hot-springs: Piccard hydrothermal field, Mid-Cayman Rise. Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta, 228, 95-118. PDF.

Wang D.T., Reeves E.P., McDermott J.M., Seewald J.S., and Ono S. (2018) Clumped isotopologue constraints on the origin of methane at seafloor hot springs. Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta, 223, 141–158. PDF.

Warr O., Sherwood Lollar B., Fellowes J., Sutcliffe C.N., McDermott J.M., Holland G., Mabry J.C., Ballentine C.J. (2018) Tracing ancient hydrogeological fracture network age and compartmentalisation using noble gases. Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta 222: 340-362. PDF

Anderson R.E., Reveillaud J.C., Reddington E., Eren A.M., McDermott J.M., Seewald J.S. , Stepanauskas R. and Huber, J.A. (2017) Genomic variation in microbial populations inhabiting the marine subseafloor at deep-sea hydrothermal vents.  Nature Communications. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-01228-6. PDF.

Li L., Wing B.A., Bui T.H., McDermott J.M., Slater G.F., Moser D.P., Fisher J., Wei S., Lacrampe-Coulome G. and Sherwood Lollar, B. (2016) Sulfur mass-independent fractionation in subsurface fracture waters indicates a long-standing sulfur cycle in Precambrian rocks. Nature Communications. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13252. PDF.

Reveillaud J.C., Reddington E., McDermott J.M., Algar C., Meyer J.L., Sylva S.P., Seewald J.S., German C.R. and Huber J.A. (2016) Subseafloor microbial communities in hydrogen-rich vent fluids from hydrothermal systems along the Mid-Cayman Rise. Environmental Microbiology doi:10.1111/1462-2920.13173.  PDF.

McDermott J.M., Seewald J.S., German C.R. and Sylva S.P. (2015) Pathways for abiotic organic synthesis at submarine hydrothermal fields. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(25): 7668-7672. PDF.   

McDermott ­­J.M., Ono S., Tivey M.K., Seewald J.S., Shanks III W.C. and Solow A.R. (2015) Identification of sulfur sources and isotopic equilibria in submarine hot springs using multiple sulfur isotopes.  Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta 160: 169-187. PDF.

Reeves E.P., McDermott J.M. and Seewald J.S.  (2014) Methanethiol production in mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal fluids.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111(15): 5474-5479. PDF.

Bennett S.A., Statham P.J., Green D.R.H., Le Bris N., McDermott J.M., Prado F., Rouxel O.J., Von Damm K.L. and German C.R. (2011) Dissolved and particulate organic carbon in hydrothermal plumes from the East Pacific Rise, 9°50’N. Deep-Sea Research Part I 58(9): 922-931. PDF.

German C.R., Bowen A., Coleman M.L., Honig D.L., Huber J.A., Jakuba M.V., Kinsey J.C., Kurz M.D., Leroy S., McDermott J.M., Mercier de Lépinay B., Nakamura K., Seewald J.S., Smith J., Sylva S.P., Van Dover C.L., Whitcomb L.L. and Yoerger D.R. (2010) Diverse styles of submarine venting on the ultra-slow spreading Mid-Cayman Rise.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(32): 14020-14025. PDF.

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