Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Research Team

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Leg 1 Leg 2
Leg 1: Deep-Sea Chemistry Group
Peter Brewer, Ed Peltzer, Peter Walz, Susan von Thun, Victoria Orphan, Kat Dawson, Alexis Pasulka, Xin Zhang

Peter BrewerPeter Brewer
Chief Scientist

Peter has taken part in more than 40 deep-sea cruises, and has served as chief scientist on major expeditions and on well over 100 ROV dives with MBARI ships and vehicles. His research interests include the ocean geochemistry of the greenhouse gases. He has devised novel techniques both for measurement and for extracting the oceanic signatures of global change.

Research interests: At MBARI, Peter's current interests include the geochemistry of gas hydrates, and the evolution of the oceanic fossil fuel CO2 signal. He has developed novel techniques for deep ocean laser Raman spectroscopy, and for testing the principles and impacts of deep ocean CO2 injection.

Ed PeltzerEd Peltzer
Senior Research Specialist

Ed is an ocean chemist who has been with MBARI since 1997. He earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Bucknell University in 1972 and a Ph.D. in oceangraphy from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego in 1979. Prior to coming to MBARI, he worked at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for nearly 20 years. As the Brewer group's project manager, Ed is also responsible for expedition planning and logistics.

Research interests: Ed has been involved in developing the instrumentation and analytical techniques to study the composition of gases in gas hydrates and deep-sea vents. He has also collaborated on the development of new instrumentation for the measurement of temperature and pH from ROVs and cabled observatories.

Peter WalzPeter Walz
Senior Research Technician

Peter has worked as a research technician for a variety of scientists at MBARI. Most recently he has supported the research efforts of Peter Brewer and his interests in the ocean chemistry of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. Peter assists with the design, testing and deployment of the ocean going science hardware and works closely with the marine operations group to integrate new equipment to work with MBARI's ROV's.

Susan von ThunSusan von Thun
Senior Research Technician

Susan works in the MBARI video lab, where her primary responsibility is to watch video taken with MBARI's remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and make observations about the organisms, behaviors, equipment, and geological features that she sees. While annotating video, she's become adept at identifying numerous deep-sea organisms, specializing in midwater organisms. She also works on MBARI's social media outlets. On this expedition, she will be in charge of the daily reports from this expedition and will assist with other science crew tasks.

Victoria OrphanVictoria Orphan
Professor of Geobiology
California Institute of Technology

Victoria is a microbial geobiologist, specializing in the development and application of molecular, geochemical, and analytical microscopy techniques for characterizing the metabolic roles of environmental microorganisms within complex environments.

Research interests: Victoria's primary research interests include the study of cooperative microbial associations and isotopic signatures associated with the cycling of methane, nitrogen and sulfur in marine sediments, extreme environments and deep subsurface ecosystems.

Kat DawsonKat Dawson
Postdoctoral Fellow
California Institute of Technology

Kat is a postdoctoral fellow in geobiology at Caltech. She graduated from Goucher College in 2005 with a bachelor degree in chemistry and received her Ph.D. in geosciences and biogeochemistry from Penn State in 2011.

Research interests: Kat's background is in organic, analytical and stable isotope geochemistry, as well as environmental microbiology. She is interested in the connection between microbial ecology, physiological responses to environmental change and the production of lipid biomarkers that may eventually become part of the geologic record. In particular, her focus is on the biogeochemistry of hydrocarbon associated systems such as marine hydrocarbon cold seeps. To investigate central metabolic pathways and syntrophic associations, her postdoctoral research involves comparing the hydrogen isotopic fractionation of fatty acids from bacterial monocultures, aggregate forming archaeal and bacterial co-cultures and sediment cores associated with a variety of active methane seep settings.

Alexis PasulkaAlexis Pasulka
Ph.D. Student
California Institute of Technology

Ally is a Ph.D. student in biological oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She completed her B.S. in biology at Arizona State in 2005. Upon completion of her doctorate, she will be joining the Orphan Lab as a postdoc.

Research interests: Ally's dissertation research has focused on integrating microbial eukaryotes into our understanding of microbial community dynamics and trophic relationships in deep-sea methane seep ecosystems. One aspect of this research involves examining the distribution and diversity of heterotrophic protists in relation to geochemical and biological variables within methane seep ecosystems. In addition, she is interested in determining if and how protists are involved in transferring methane-derived carbon within seep food webs.

Xin ZhangXin Zhang
Associate Researcher
Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Xin Zhang is a former MBARI student of Peter Brewer and Bill Kirkwood. He was involved in the development of a Deep-Sea Raman Probe for the measurement of sediment pore-water geochemistry.

Leg 2: Molecular Ecology Group
Bob Vrijenhoek, Shannon Johnson, Julio Harvey, Lonny Lundsten, Kris Walz, Haibin Zhang, Lisa Levin, Greg Rouse, Shana Goffredi, Sigrid Katz, Ben Grupe

Bob VrijenhoekBob Vrijenhoek
Chief Scientist

Bob Vrijenhoek leads MBARI's Molecular Ecology Group, which focuses on using molecular tools to examine population structure and evolutionary relationships. His group is working on a number of projects studying gene flow and barriers to dispersal of deep-sea invertebrates associated with cold seeps in the Monterey Bay and hydrothermal vents at ridge sites throughout the world. The group also studies DNA sequence information from bacterial symbionts to examine their evolutionary relationships with their hosts and infer possible modes of transmission.

Shannon JohnsonShannon Johnson
Senior Research Technician

Shannon is a member of the Molecular Ecology Group at MBARI. She studies animals that are nutritionally reliant on bacteria that metabolize minerals such as sulfide and methane rather than drawing energy from the sun. These chemosynthetic animals inhabit hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, and whale falls, which are like islands of food in the deep-sea. These reducing environments can be separated by hundreds of kilometers, giant mountain chains, currents, or ridge offsets. Shannon uses genetics to understand how far benthic deep-sea animals are able to disperse and to understand the evolutionary relationships among them. On this cruise she will be responsible for collecting, dissecting, and preserving invertebrates and their larvae.

Julio HarveyJulio Harvey
Senior Research Technician

Julio is a molecular ecologist and evolutionary biologist who develops molecular probes to investigate the ecology of marine zooplankton and phytoplankton species in water samples typically collected by autonomous, robotic platforms. On this cruise, Julio will be working with Haibin Zhang to investigate the species diversity and population genetics of calanoid copepods collected in vertical and surface plankton net tows conducted during the day and at night.

Research interests: Marine resource conservation, ecosystem level fisheries biology, molecular target detection, dispersal, distribution and ecology of marine zooplankton (e.g., invertebrate larvae, copepods) and phytoplankton (e.g., diatoms, dinoflagellates, prymnesiophytes), coevolution of marine symbioses, population genetics of marine species.

Lonny LundstenLonny Lundsten
Senior Research Technician

On this cruise, Lonny will be in charge of biological sample collection and processing and video data management. This work entails identifying unique biological and geological features that will be seen during the dive, while using MBARI-designed software to log the observations.

Kris WalzKris Walz
Research Assistant

Kris Walz works with the Molecular Ecology and Midwater Ecology Groups at MBARI where she studies invertebrate species from the Gulf of California and Monterey Bay using genetic tools and video observations. On this cruise, Kris will assist with recording and annotating video during the ROV dives, processing biological samples collected from the ROV, and writing the daily cruise logs.

Haibin ZhangHaibin Zhang
Postdoctoral Fellow

Haibin Zhang is a postdoctoral fellow in Bob Vrijenhoek’s lab at MBARI. On this cruise, he is looking forward to collecting zooplankton samples.

Research interests: Haibin is interested in the molecular ecology and community genetics of marine zooplanktons as well as deep-sea animals.

Lisa LevinLisa Levin
Director, Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Lisa studies the animal communities on the deep and shallow seafloor. She received her Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), conducted postdoctoral studies at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, taught for nine years at North Carolina State University, and returned to SIO as a faculty member in 1992. She now serves as administrator, teacher, mentor, and deep-sea cheerleader at Scripps. On this cruise Lisa hopes to advance understanding of the Del Mar seep community structure and its relation to other chemosynthetic (whale, seep, oxygen minimum zone) habitats. She will work with Ben Grupe to obtain quantitative carbonate, wood and sediment samples for faunal analyses, and assist in providing material for molecular analysis to MBARI researchers. Ultimately Lisa would like to develop an observatory/time series station at the Del Mar Seep to advance understanding of climate change and human impacts on margin ecosystems.

Research interests: Much of Lisa’s deep-sea research focuses on the structure and function of continental margin ecosystems, including habitats such as methane seeps and oxygen minimum zones. She is currently addressing climate change consequences for deep-sea systems and working to develop a cross-disciplinary, international Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative. Back at Scripps, she also investigates aspects of population connectivity, ocean acidification and deoxygenation, and wetland ecology, restoration and water purification functions.

Shana GoffrediGreg Rouse
Professor of Marine Biology
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Greg is a comparative biologist who mainly works on marine invertebrate animals using morphological and molecular data.

Research interests: Greg has been on numerous oceanographic expeditions involving deep-sea habitats; including whalefalls, hydrothermal vents, and methane seeps. He spends a lot of time investigating the extraordinary bone-devouring worm known as Osedax. His deep-sea research interests also include the study of new hydrothermal vent animals from the Eastern and Western Pacific as well as methane seeps in the Eastern Pacific.

Shana GoffrediShana Goffredi
Assistant Professor
Occidental College

Shana's research interests mainly concern beneficial symbiotic partnerships between bacteria and invertebrates. Her research program focuses on the physiology and biochemistry of microbially-driven symbiotic systems, within the context of ecological questions and how environmental influences dramatically affect their functioning, and vice versa.

On this cruise, Shana and her team will mainly be working with the Osedax worms. They will attempt live animal shipboard incubation experiments to examine the uptake of isotopically-labeled nutrients (amino acids / carbohydrates) by the Osedax worms and their symbionts. Additionally, they will separate the bacterial symbiont cells from host tissues using gentle homogenization and filtration. These enriched symbiont samples will be used for transcriptomics (a measure of actual gene production, to definitively understand the symbiont metabolic activity inside the worms), as well as single-cell genomics.

Research interests: Shana is also interested in seep symbioses, especially if environmental gradients are involved (sulfide, etc). She finds oil seeps to be particularly interesting for the possibility of dual symbioses and increased symbiont diversity. On this cruise, her team will collect animals suspected to be involved in beneficial bacterial partnerships to compare to those already known..

Sigrid KatzSigrid Katz
Postdoctoral Researcher
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Sigrid is a postdoctoral fellow at Scripps Institution of Oceanography working with Greg Rouse. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Vienna, Austria where she worked on marine symbioses. She participated in several expeditions to deep-sea hydrothermal vents and seeps as well as whale falls in the East Pacific. Her main interests are how symbioses and other animals deal with the extreme conditions found in these reducing habitats. Physiology and morphological adaptations, development and evolution, as well as host-symbiont interactions are especially interesting to Sigrid.

Research interests: Sigrid is currently investigating the physiology of nutrition and acid/base homeostasis of the bone-eating worms Osedax.

Ben GrupeBen Grupe
Graduate Student
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Ben is a Ph.D. student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography interested in the ecology of cold seeps. This will be his twelfth research cruise, but his first on MBARI's Western Flyer. In 2012, Scripps graduate students organized and led the San Diego Coastal Expedition, during which Ben helped discover and explore a methane seep off the coast of San Diego. On the current expedition he hopes to learn more about the biological community living at that particular methane seep, as well as others in the Southern California region.

Research interests: Ben's soon-to-be-written dissertation focuses on the ecology, diversity, and food webs of hard substrate communities at chemosynthetic ecosystems, and his research has utilized submersible collections, deep-sea experiments, stable isotopes, and lots of coffee.