News Release – Diné College to Explore

Diné College to Explore the Presence of Microbes in the Sub-surface of Yellowstone National Park


Sept. 14, 2020

TUBA CITY, Ariz. — Pools and springs on the surface of Yellowstone National Park have always been a matter of interest for scientists who believe in the presence of microbes in that zone, especially bacteria that are heat-loving and can consume minerals in hot underground water.

Professor Shazia Tabassum Hakim, a Tuba City-based professor at Diné College’s School of Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, is one of the co-investigators of the team that recently secured a Los Angeles-based W.M. Keck Foundation Grant for the next three years.

The $1 million grant will help a team of researchers from Diné College, Montana State University, Princeton University, the University of Colorado, the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, the United Geological Survey, the National Park Service, Salish Kootenai College and the private engineering firm Class VI Solutions, each under the leadership of Eric Boyd, Ph.D., a Montana State University Department of Microbiology and Immunology professor, to find the answers for the questions about microbial life in the sub-surface of Yellowstone National Park.

The Keck grant supports three years of research by the interdisciplinary research team, which Hakim is part of, and serves to fund the design and construction of a specialized instrument triggered by earthquakes to collect samples from existing boreholes. The research links biology and geology to determine how the Earth’s natural processes impact microbial life.

Boyd is the lead investigator of the team said that Yellowstone’s seismic activity is at the heart of the interplay of geologic processes that sustain heat-loving microbes known as thermophiles in the subsurface of Yellowstone, and now this research team will try to prove it.

The award is made in memory of W.M. Keck’s granddaughter Tammis A. Day of Sula, Montana, a poet, playwright, actress and horsewoman.

The project is based at Montana State University. The W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company.



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