Susan von Thun

Senior Research Technician

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

7700 Sandholdt Road

Moss Landing, CA 95039

Phone: (831) 775-2006


My Role at MBARI

As a Senior Research Technician in the Video Lab at MBARI, my primary responsibility is to watch the video from MBARI’s Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and annotate the organisms, behaviors, equipment, and geological features observed through the ROVs. I’ve become an expert in identifying deep-sea midwater organisms. I work closely with the Midwater ecology group and the Bioluminescence Lab to expand my knowledge of the fish, jellies, cephalopods, and other groups in the midwater.

To annotate the video, video lab staff use software developed by MBARI engineers called Video Annotation and Reference System (VARS). VARS is an interface and database system that provides tools for describing, cataloging, retrieving, and viewing the visual, descriptive, and quantitative data associated with MBARI’s deep-sea video archives. We have currently annotated over 15,000 hours of video and have populated the database with over 2.5 million observations! The public can search VARS data by using the Public Query.

I also manage the social media at MBARI. We have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube. I am interested in using social media to bring science and technology to audiences that may already be interested in MBARI’s work as well as audiences that we have yet to tap into. I’ve attended ScienceOnline conferences to learn more about the exciting field of science communication and hone my skills at using social media to reach broader audiences. My personal twitter handle is @omgirlsvt.

Some other tasks that I perform in the Video Lab are video editing using Final Cut Pro, data quality control, participation in research cruises, and public outreach and education by talking to visitors to MBARI and to the public at the Monterey Bay Aquarium‘s Mysteries of the Deep program.

Educational Background
Publications and Presentations

von Thun, S., 2001, Oceanographic influences on larval recruitment of benthic invertebrates in Monterey Bay, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Master’s Thesis.

Kogan, I., C.K. Paull, L.A. Kuhnz, E.J. Burton, S. Von Thun, H.G. Greene, J.P. Barry. 2006. ATOC/Pioneer Seamount cable after 8 years on the seafloor: Observations, environmental impact. Continental Shelf Research, 26(6): 771-787. PDF

von Thun, S., L.J. Lundsten, N.J. Stout, B. Schlining, J.L. Connor. A unique system for analyzing and describing seamount communities. Presentation at the European Marine Biology Symposium, Vienna, Austria, 2005.

Von Thun, S., J. L. Connor, J. Graybeal, N. J. Stout & L. J. Lundsten. Access to MBARI’S deep-sea video annotation data: 14 years of observation. Poster presentation at the 10th Deep-Sea Biology Symposium,
Coos Bay, Oregon, 2003.

Schlining, K., von Thun, S., Kuhnz, L., Schlining, B., Lundsten, L., Jacobsen Stout, N., Chaney, L., & Connor, J. Debris in the deep: Using a 22-year video annotation database to survey marine litter in Monterey Canyon, central California, USA. Deep Sea Research Part I. Open access article.

K.L. Smith, Jr., A.D. Sherman, C.L. Huffard, P.R. McGill1, R. Henthorn, S. Von Thun, H.A. Ruhl, M. Kahru, M.D. Ohman (accepted). Large salp bloom export from the upper ocean and benthic community response in the abyssal northeast Pacific: day to week resolution. Limnology and Oceanography.

S. von Thun, C. Huffard, A.D. Sherman, K. Seeley, K.L. Smith, Jr. (in prep) Pelagic Sargassum community change over 40-year period: bellwether of climate change in NW Atlantic Ocean. Submitting to Marine Biology.

Cruise Participation

I participate in many resaerch cruises with MBARI Scientists on MBARI vessels R/V Western Flyer and R/V Rachel Carson. On these expeditions, my daily tasks include using VARS to annotate the video, spotting target species while controling the main science camera, helping to process samples after the ROV dive, and writing about this for MBARI’s Expedition logs. Most frequently, I venture out into the midwaters of Monterey Bay with the Midwater Ecology and Bioluminescence lab. I have also participated in expeditions with many of the research groups from MBARI.

I participated with MBARI’s Pelagic-Benthic Coupling group in collaboration with the Schmidt Ocean Institute on expeditions to the Sargasso Sea. I’m working closely with the group on the publication of this work.