There, along a sea bottom ridge known as the East Pacific Rise, vents spew out 500-degree water that provides a home for the Pompeii worm, the most heat-tolerant animal on the planet.
Henscheid and UO professor Andy Berglund are part of a team studying the Pompeii worm, hoping to figure out how it survives in some of the most extreme conditions the Earth can dish up.
The Pompeii worm is a hairy-looking creature about as long as a hand and draped in fuzzy gray filaments made up of bacteria.
Using the labs aboard Atlantis, Henscheid is analyzing Pompeii worm samples as part of her doctoral research focusing on a specific protein involved in the molecular process - called RNA splicing - that selects and pieces together genetic information carried in DNA.
The Pompeii worm keeps a cool head in that hot clime, however.
Nevertheless, the Pompeii worms weather extreme temperature shifts with impunity, since they often leave their hot tubes to forage outside in the 10 [degrees] C water.