Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

2012 projects

Expedition to the Gulf of California

Researchers return to the Gulf of California with R/V Zephyr and R/V Western Flyer in 2012. MBARI researchers will collaborate throughout the expedition with Mexican scientists to conduct biological, chemical, and geologic studies of the gulf. Regular postings of each leg of the Western Flyer cruise will be available to the public on MBARI's Expeditions website.

Zephyr and seafloor mapping: Dave Caress

The AUV team will deploy MBARI’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) D. Allan B. to collect and process multibeam data to produce detailed seafloor maps. Those bathymetric maps−critical to understanding the geologic processes−will direct subsequent ROV Doc Ricketts dives from the R/V Western Flyer

Western Flyer
Leg 1 Lead scientist:
Francisco Chavez

On the first leg of the Gulf of California expedition, Chavez' research group will conduct hydrographic surveys on the California Undercurrent (CU) as the R/V Western Flyer transits south to Mexico. Because the CU provides source waters for coastal upwelling, its biogeochemistry has significant consequences for the overall biological productivity of the California Current System. The Western Flyer transit south to the Gulf of California provides an ideal vehicle for tracing the evolution of these waters as they flow from the eastern tropical Pacific to central California.

Leg 2 Lead scientist: Steve Haddock

This research will be based on ROV Doc Ricketts dives, supplemented by blue-water scuba, midwater trawling, and jigging for squid. The principal areas of interest are the Gulf’s central and southern basins. The focus of Haddock's research will be the physiology and diversity of the midwater animals, especially gelatinous species which also occur in Monterey Bay. Many species are found in both regions, despite temperature differences of 15°C between the water masses. The research will address questions of how the animal populations have adapted to their very different environments.

Leg 3 Lead scientist: James Barry

The major goals of studies during this leg of the Gulf of California cruise is to study the animal communities and biogeochemical fluxes in the northwest Gulf of California. Barry will compare sites in the northwest Gulf characterized by anomalous oceanographic conditions to sites of comparable depth, but more typical hydrographic conditions near La Paz.

Leg 4 Lead scientist: Peter Brewer

This cruise leg will focus on the use of MBARI’s ROV Doc Ricketts to carry out a series of experiments and observations on the impact of extreme low oxygen environments on the seafloor at the mouth of the Gulf of California. These may serve to predict how climate change, lower oxygen concentrations and higher CO2 levels in the ocean will affect similar systems off California in the future. The group will also use in situ Raman spectroscopic techniques to probe chemical reactions taking place in the hot, sulfidic, hydrocarbon-rich sediments of the Guyamas basin.

Legs 5-6 Lead scientists: Ken Johnson, Charles Paull, Bob Vrijenhoek

A coordinated effort involving three research groups (Johnson, Paull, and Vrijenhoek laboratories) will investigate the geology, biology, and chemistry along a 490 km transect encompassing segments of transform margins in the Gulf of California. This field program will involve two 10-day cruises on the R/V Western Flyer to conduct ROV dives for detailed geological, biological, and chemical sampling.

Leg 7 Lead scientist: Dave Clague

High-resolution surveys from the mapping AUV D. Allan B. of the Gulf of California seafloor will be used to identify areas of recent faulting and to guide subsequent ROV missions. The ROV dives will focus on any newly discovered hydrothermal vent structures or the youngest, least sediment-covered lava flows. A secondary objective on these dives will be to characterize and collect both non-vent and vent fauna, should any active vents be discovered.

Last updated: Mar. 12, 2012