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.

Herrera Lab

Current Members

Jill McDermott
Principal Investigator

Jill is a Chemical Oceanographer trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

  • gscholar
  • researchgate
  • Twitter
Jada Siverand
PhD Student

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

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
Connor Downing
Masters Student

Connor is interested in hydrothermal fluid geochemistry

    Kelden Pehr
    Postdoctoral Researcher

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

    • gscholar_edited
    Billy Dowd
    PhD Student

    Billy is interested in studying dissolved organic chemistry and gases in ancient terrestrial groundwater and hydrothermal vent systems.

    • LinkedIn

    Former Members

    Grant Loescher
    • LinkedIn
    Undergraduate Student
    Susan Ambrose
      Masters Student

      Went into graduate school at Arizona State University

      Tiffany Bauman
        Undergraduate Student

        Went into graduate school at Lehigh University

        Talia Rodkey
        • LinkedIn
        Undergraduate Student

        Went to work as an Applications and Support Engineer at Bruker Alicona



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

        Research cruises at sea
        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

        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 



        Lollar B.S, 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, 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.