Olivia Hershey

Olivia Hershey

Title: IB PhD Student
Dept/Program: Biology
Email: ose1@zips.uakron.edu


During my undergraduate studies at The University of Akron, I became interested in the field of Microbiology after taking a course in the subject taught by Dr. Hazel Barton. I began working in her lab shortly after, and gained experienced working in environmental microbiology, specifically subterranean cave environments. The lack of sunlight (and as a consequence, lack of photosynthesis) and the sequestration of essential nutrients and minerals within the rock surfaces of the cave results in a unique oligotrophic environment in which few but microbial organisms can flourish. For my undergraduate Honors Thesis, I analyzed over 100 isolates from a cave for their ability to grow in an iron-limited environment, similar to conditions present in caves, tested them for production of iron-chelating siderophores, and observed siderophore scavenging occurring between bacterial species. In addition to the research experience I gained in the Barton Lab, I also picked up caving as a hobby!

              I am continuing research in this field under the advisement of Dr. Barton in the IB program. My current course of research involves collecting samples from Lechuguilla Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM, which is known to be a pristine environment free from anthropogenic influence. In such an environment, the bacteria in the cave produce antibiotics and antimicrobials as a method to compete against other bacteria for the scarce nutrients present in their environment. I plan to do 16S rRNA sequencing on the samples collected to determine what microbes are present in the cave, and then performing metagenomic analyses on the samples to look for genes relevant to microbial metabolism to design a media for culturing novel cave microbes in the lab, and to look for novel antibiotics produced by these microbes. The IB program allows me to incorporate microbiology, geology, biochemistry, and bioinformatics into my research, all essential for gaining a well-rounded understanding of environmental microbial activity.


BS Biology, Univeristy of Akron