Dr. Amy Baco-Taylor : Introduction
My name is Amy Baco-Taylor. I'm a visiting investigator at Woods Hole oceanographic institution. I'm a deep sea biologist. I study deep sea corals and I also work on deep sea whale falls. As a researcher at Woods Hole, I'm working on two main projects. One is on deep sea corals and the other is on whale falls in the deep sea, looking at the community that lives on the whale falls. So, I have two kinds of work. One is I do a lot of molecular biology work, which involves a lot of time in the lab; isolating DNA, amplifying DNA, sequencing DNA. The other, I also spend a lot of time looking through the microscope, trying to identify animals collected. Identifying different coral species, identifying the tiny little invertebrates that live on the whale falls.
I did my Ph. D research on whale falls in the deep sea. When a whale dies and sinks to the sea floor, there's a community that develops on it, similar to what you find at hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. They are actually dependant on sulfides that come out of the bones. There are a lot of fats and oils in the whale bones that come out, and bacteria will break them down, and when they break them down, its just like anything that rots, you get this smell, like a rotten egg smell, and that's hydrogen sulfide. And this is the same chemical that comes out of hydrothermal vents and cold seeps, so you get a very similar community on the whale falls.
At sea, I have a lot of responsibilities. Usually, I am one of the Principle Investigators, which means that I have a specific project that I am working on, that I am responsible for, making sure that we get the samples we need to work on that project, making sure the samples are processed correctly, and deciding where we dive, deciding different work that's done. Besides that level, I also do a lot of the, I guess grunt work, actually working on the samples.
The things I really enjoy about working at sea are the people I get to work with. I also just enjoy being at sea. It's just a really different way of life from being on land. You get to get away from all the millions of different things going on at work and just concentrate on one project for a certain period of time. And it's also really neat to get to see all the animals alive, in their natural habitat, and get to look at them in your hand and under the microscope while they're still alive.