Amy R. Smith, Ph.D.

Expertise: Microbial ecology and metabolisms in subseafloor
igneous environments
Affiliation: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Certification/Education: Ph.D. (Ocean, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences), Oregon State University
M.S. (Biology), Portland State University,
B.S. (Biology), University of Texas at Arlington

SUBSEA Research Objectives

Amy’s SUBSEA research is focused on understanding what types of microbial metabolisms and activities can occur in hydrothermal vents at mid-plate hotspot volcanoes. This information will be linked to the geochemistry of the system and will be used to inform future life detection missions to ocean worlds.


Amy Smith is a Postdoctoral Investigator at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the laboratory of Dr. Julie Huber. Her research is focused on microbial life in igneous environments which include lava tubes, terrestrial basalts, and igneous oceanic crust. During her graduate work, she isolated iron-oxidizing bacteria from these environments and used metagenomics and next-generation sequencing to identify the mineralogical influence on microbial community structure and metabolism. She identified novel bacteria from mineral biofilms in the Juan de Fuca Ridge flank aquifer and found evidence that the ancient acetogenesis pathway occurs in biofilms from thermal oceanic crust. This work challenges the paradigm that the Calvin Cycle is the predominant carbon fixation pathway in oceanic crust and indicates chemoautotrophy based on H 2 (from water-rock reactions) and CO 2 may be more common than previously believed.