Dr. Fisher's research interests include the physiology of the animals and the ecology of the communities that inhabit cold seeps and hydrothermal vents in the deep sea. Much of this research focuses on the functioning of the major players in these communities: animals harboring autotrophic symbionts. These types of symbiotic associations are extremely important in the world’s oceans, where symbiont-dependent species are often the primary ecosystem-structuring organisms in both shallow tropical environments, such as coral reefs, and in the deep sea where biomass may be limiting. The importance of the symbioses between algae and tropical invertebrates (such as corals, clams, and anemones) has long been recognized and has been studied by biologists for over 100 years. However, it wasn’t until after the discovery of the deep-sea hydrothermal vents in 1977 that associations between chemoautotrophic bacteria and marine invertebrates were known (or for the most part even imagined). In these symbiotic associations, the bacterial symbionts oxidize reduced sulfur compounds as an energy source, fix carbon dioxide into organic carbon compounds (like green plants), and supply the bulk nutritional needs of their hosts. Often the hosts do not even have a mouth, gut, or anus, yet these animals achieve remarkable biomass at vents and seeps and are foundation fauna for communities that support hundreds of other species.
Dr. Fisher graduated from Michigan State University in 1976 with a B.S. in Biology, completed his Masters of Biological Sciences in 1981 at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his Ph. D. of Biological Sciences in 1985 at the University of California, Santa Barbara.