Southern California 2013 Expedition

May 5-22, 2013

The Deep-Sea Chemistry group’s primary mission for the first leg of this expedition is to investigate the chemistry of the pore water—water that occupies the space between seafloor sediment particles—that surrounds various geologic features and active natural gas vents in the Santa Monica Basin. They will use as their primary tool a laser Raman spectrometer, which can bounce a specially-tuned laser beam off of almost any object or substance, and receive back a signal that provides information about that object’s chemical composition and molecular structure. This tool will allow the team to get chemical data back from the seafloor in real time. They have used the high-resolution seafloor maps produced by MBARI’s mapping autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to determine where the more active young vents will be located, and plan to conduct their laser Raman studies at those sites.

For the second leg, the Molecular Ecology group plans to visit a whale carcass and several hydrocarbon seeps in the Southern California region to sample boneworms of the genus Osedax and collect chemosymbiotic clams and tubeworms. The animals and their symbiotic bacteria will be compared genetically with related animals from whale falls and cold seeps ranging from the Gulf of California to Monterey Bay and the northwestern Pacific margin. The comparisons will allow researchers to make inferences about how the animals and their associated microbes disperse among vastly separated habitats along the Pacific margin of North America.


This close up of one of the bioherms, shows a variety of sponges, anemones (the purple tentacles belong to Actinernus sp.), tunicates, and a small shrimp (Pandalopsis sp.).