Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute


PULSE 53: Pelagic-Benthic Coupling and the Carbon Cycle
September 17 - September 23 , 2007

People

Click on any name to read an interview:

Ken Smith, Jacob Ellena, Henry Ruhl, Mike Vardaro, Alana Sherman,
Paul McGill, Brett Hobson, Jim Birch, Richard Henthorn, Markus Moeseneder


Ken Smith
Senior Scientist

What is your role on this cruise?
Chief scientist

What are your primary goals?
1) To study the long-time series changes in deep-sea communities as it relates to climate change. 2) Continue development of the benthic rover with extensive autonomous testing to abyssal depths.

What do you expect to find?
We expect to find that benthic communities respond to changes in food supply ultimately produced in surface waters. Surface production and export of particulate organic carbon (food supply) to the deep sea should be related to climate indices.

What is your favorite/least favorite part of a research cruise?
Favorite - going to sea where I can concentrate only on doing science. Least favorite - returning to the lab and the deluge of administrative paperwork.

What is your job title? Why did you decide to become one? And how did you become one? 
Senior scientist. I was and still am fascinated by the natural world and how everything works. I became interested in deep-sea ecosystems because of the extreme environments they occupy and the inherent technological difficulty in studying these little known systems. I studied zoology in college and then became an ecologist in graduate school. Professional positions at WHOI and SIO expanded my knowledge, compelling me to look at whole ecosystems including the physical, chemical and biological components critical to their functioning in the deep ocean.


Jacob Ellena
Research Technician

What is your role on this cruise?
My primary role is to ready the various pieces of equipment for deployment. This involves anything from changing the batteries to reprogramming instruments for various deployment conditions. I also process the various samples that we will collect from both free vehicles and the ROV.

What are your primary goals?
My primary goals are to collect sediment samples using our free vehicle grab respirometer as well as re-call, service, and re-deploy our long term mooring.

What do you expect to find?
I expect to find an abyssal plain. Think of it as a large brown mud field spotted with a variety of deep sea organisms.

What is your favorite/least favorite part of a research cruise?
The best part of going to sea is being able to play with all the various equipment we bring out. It’s quite a treat for anyone who likes to tinker with things. And speaking of treats the food is usually quite tasty. Having the weather turn foul and getting a bit sea sick though is by far the worst.

What is your job title? Why did you decide to become one? And how did you become one? 
I am currently employed as a Research Technician. To be honest I didn’t decide to be one but once I was offered the position I took it. I worked for Dr. Ken Smith as an undergraduate assistant and upon graduation was offered a full time tech position.


Henry Ruhl
Post-Doctoral Fellow

What is your role on this cruise?
I will assist in the recovery, servicing, and deployment of the sediment trap and long-term time-lapse camera array, and the deployment and recovery of the short-term free vehicle grab respirometer. I’ll also conduct ROV video transects and megafauna sample collections.

What are your primary goals?
Understand the short and long term-influences of climate and food supply on abyssal life.

What do you expect to find?
We expect to see seasonal highs in the amount of sediment flux, high respiration, and seasonal in high activity of megafauna in the time-lapse images.

What is your favorite/least favorite part of a research cruise?
My favorite part is deploying equipment that’s on the way to collecting new data and similarly getting the results back, and my least favorite is the occasionally extended inactive periods due to transits or bad weather.

What is your job title? Why did you decide to become one? And how did you become one? 
I’m a Postdoctoral Fellow and I am interested in deep-sea ecology. I became a Postdoc at MBARI after getting my PhD from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.


Mike Vardaro
Graduate Research Assistant

What is your role on this cruise?
I will be using the ROV Tiburon to collect deep sea echinoids (sea urchins) and push core sediment samples to study bioturbation (animal-mediated mixing of sediment) and surface-benthos interactions, as well as assisting with surface operations and ROV transects.

What are your primary goals?
My goals are to examine how climate variations on the surface affect the biology of the deep sea, specifically how carbon travels from the surface to the seafloor and what happens to it once it arrives. I am using the echinoid Echinocrepis rostrata as a proxy to study the effects of bioturbation on carbon sequestration and remineralization.

What do you expect to find?
I hope to find that there is a link between carbon flux and bioturbation activity, and to use the data I collect to create an index of bioturbation that will allow the connection to be quantified. This is important because understanding the carbon cycle and how the deep sea is involved is an important part of understanding how global climate is being affected and will be affected in the future by carbon concentrations in the atmosphere and ocean.

What is your favorite/least favorite part of a research cruise?
My favorite part of a cruise is being in the middle of the open ocean and seeing an unbroken horizon of waves and clear skies, as well as watching the ROV video screens as the vehicle reaches the seafloor 4100 meters down and anticipating what kinds of things we might see during the dive. My least favorite part is dissecting animals and sectioning mud cores in the refrigerated cold room until 2 in the morning.

What is your job title? Why did you decide to become one? And how did you become one? 
I am a graduate student researcher, working on my Ph.D. project. I decided to pursue a graduate degree in Marine Biology because I was fascinated by the ocean and the animals that live there, and I wanted to study the deep sea because of how remote and relatively unexplored this vast expanse of the Earth’s surface is. After graduating from Georgetown University with a degree in Biology, I applied to several graduate programs in Oceanography and Marine Biology and eventually attended Texas A&M University, where I studied deep-sea gas hydrate communities in the Gulf of Mexico and received a Master’s degree in Oceanography. I then applied and was accepted to the doctoral program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (UC San Diego) where I work with Ken Smith (currently at MBARI) on abyssal plain biology and ecology.


Alana Sherman
Electrical Engineer

What is your role on this cruise?
Engineering support

What are your primary goals?
Test the benthic rover, recover and redeploy the camera tripod.

What is your favorite/least favorite part of a research cruise?
Not getting to run and swim for a week.

What is your job title? Why did you decide to become one? And how did you become one? 
Electrical engineer. I like to build things. I went to school and studied engineering.


Paul McGill
Electrical Engineer

What is your role on this cruise?
I'm the Lead Engineer for the Benthic Rover. I, along with the other project engineers, decide what tests we'll perform with the Rover during the cruise. After the cruise, we'll analyze the data that were recorded to see how well our design is working.

What are your primary goals?
The Rover measures the oxygen consumption of animals living on and in the sediment of the deep ocean with an instrument called a Benthic Respirometer. Faulty oxygen sensors have prevented the Rover from recording oxygen measurements from both of its two respirometer chambers during the same dive. Our primary goal is to solve the sensor problems and make good oxygen measurements on both respirometer chambers over a 36-hour period.

What do you expect to find?
We expect to find that our oxygen measurement problems have been caused by defective sensors sent from the factory in Norway. We hope that measurements made simultaneously in two respirometer chambers will show similar oxygen consumption curves.

What is your favorite/least favorite part of a research cruise?
My favorite part the cruises is doing interesting, exciting work without having to cook, commute to work, or answer telephones. My least favorite part is packing all of our equipment to go. If you forget one tiny item that you need, there is no store nearby and your work may come to screeching halt.

What is your job title? Why did you decide to become one? And how did you become one? 
I'm an Electrical Engineer. I decided to become one while I was in the third grade and I've never regretted my decision. I wanted to get involved in active scientific research in college, and not just attend classes. I got my B.S. and M.S. degrees from Stanford University, where I worked in a research laboratory and was sent around designing and installing instrumentation for studying the Earth's geomagnetic field. That work led directly to my current job here at MBARI.


Brett Hobson
Mechanical Engineer

What is your role on this cruise?
Mechanical engineer with the science party.

What are your primary goals?
Ensure the deployment, operation and recovery of all science instruments goes as planned.

What do you expect to find?
Lots of soft mud and a few critters

What is your favorite/least favorite part of a research cruise?
My favorite part of the cruise is that we could be exploring a part of the world nobody has seen before, and my least favorite part of the cruise is that I’ll be away from my family.

What is your job title? Why did you decide to become one? And how did you become one?
I’m a senior development engineer at MBARI. I’ve always wanted to contribute to the development and operation of ocean exploration tools, so I studied mechanical engineering in college, then identified somebody I wanted to apprentice with and eventually, through stubborn persistence, convinced him that I was useful to have around.