Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Research Team
Ken Smith, Alana Sherman, Michael Risi, Susan Von Thun, Judit Pungor
Don Montague, Joe Brock, Debbie Nail Meyer

Ken Smith Ken Smith
Expedition co-principal investigator
Open-ocean ecologist, MBARI

As co-principal investigator, Ken will lead the science activities. His team's primary objective is to recover data from the deep-sea observatory they put into the ocean in August 2011. They plan to redeploy this instrument for another six months. They will also continue their studies of the Sargassum community at several sampling stations between Bermuda and the Bahamas.

Research interests:  Ken's current interests center around the influence of climate change on pelagic (living in the water) and benthic (on the seafloor) communities. These communities range from surface Sargassum assemblages in the northwest Atlantic Ocean and Antarctic iceberg dynamics to deep-sea assemblages in the northeast Pacific. Long-term monitoring is a critical component in identifying the impact of global warming on the open-ocean ecosystem. This is the rationale for establishing another long-term mooring site in the western Atlantic off the Bahamas to expand his research group's monitoring to other critical regions of the global ocean.


Watch video:  Ken Smith discusses the goals of the expedition

Alana ShermanAlana Sherman
Expedition co-principal investigator
Electrical engineer, MBARI

Lead engineer for the deep-sea observatory deployment and the Sargassum community study.

Research interests:  Alana's focus is on developing oceanographic instrumentation. In particular, she has worked on several imaging systems, underwater vehicles (both remotely operated and autonomous), and a water sampling system for autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).

Watch video:  Alana Sherman talks about the expedition equipment, going to sea, and how her career has developed.

Mike RisiMichael Risi
Software engineer

Mike will be assisting Alana Sherman in the recovery and redeployment of the deep-sea observatory.

Research interests:  Mike is currently involved in developing in situ respirometers to study the impacts of ocean acidification. Mike also works on automated control for remotely operated vehicles (ROV).


Susan Von Thun Susan Von Thun
Marine biologist

Susan will be sorting and identifying the organisms in the Sargassum seaweed samples as they are collected from each science station. She will also be helping process samples from the deep-sea observatory sediment traps and process images from the camera tripod on the observatory.

Research interests:  Susan works in the video lab at MBARI, where she is a senior research technician. Her primary role at MBARI is to help manage and annotate the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) video archive. Observations about the biology, geology, and equipment in ROV videos are logged using software designed by MBARI engineers called the Video Annotation and Reference System (VARS).


Judit PungorJudit Pungor
Graduate student
Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University

Judit will be assisting with the collection and processing of samples.

Research interests:  Judit's research focuses on the visual systems of cephalopods (squid, octopus, and their relatives). Cephalopods are highly visual animals, using their complex, image-forming eyes for almost everything in their lives, from predator avoidance and prey capture to mating and aggression displays. In her work, she is examining the functional connections and biochemistry of their visual processing centers.

Debbie Nail MeyerDebbie Nail Meyer
Outreach coordinator

Debbie's job is to communicate about the science to the public and support the science team with sample collection and processing. She will take pictures and video to illustrate science in action and write about the research for the web.

Research interests:  With a background in oceanography, technology, and communications, Debbie is interested in communicating the wonder of science to students and non-scientists. She is excited to participate in the research and to learn as much as she can about the Sargasso Sea.

Don Montague Don Montague
Kite Assist Institute (KAI)

Don’s background as a professional windsurfer on the World Cup Tour and as a professional kitesurfer has put him on the cutting edge of sail and kite development for the past 25 years. As a co-founder of Makani Power, Don has multiple patents pending on innovations in both sports and energy systems using kite technology. Don will contribute his expertise during this mission with a suite of specialized kites, each instrumented with cameras and sensors and flown above the Lone Ranger to aid the science team in their search and imaging of Sargassum.

Web links:,

Joe BrockJoe Brock
Kite Technician
Kite Assist Institute (KAI)

Joe brings a background in physics and engineering to his job at KAI with the kiteboat project. On this mission, his role as kite technician involves rigging and launching the various kites, as well as working with the camera systems, and mounting hardware, and other gear. Joe has previous experience as a commercial fisherman in Alaska for eight summer seasons; he also built a sailboat that he sailed from Washington to Alaska, and down to Mexico. Joe is looking forward to deploying the kite systems from the Lone Ranger as a unique field testing opportunity. The ship’s remote location in the open sea will allow the team to operate the kites at greater heights than they can closer to shore where air traffic must be avoided.

Cruise Homepage

Learn more about the Sargasso Sea and the research team's objectives.

Read daily updates from the researchers aboard the Lone Ranger.

ROV PhantomEquipment
Descriptions of the equipment used on this expedition.

Cruise 1:
February 2011

Read daily logs and learn more about the research projects.

Cruise 2:
Summer 2011

View the photo log of images sent back from the ship.