Dr. Timothy Shank : Role During the Expedition
On the Deep Atlantic Stepping Stone cruise, my responsibility was to lead one of the two groups out there in looking at the evolutionary questions. How these populations have been maintained over time. These seamounts may be stepping stones for populations and we try to asses whether that's true or not. How fragile these systems are for these populations. My goal was to obtain the needed samples to address the questions that we're addressing as well to make sure that other people got what they needed out of the cruise. When you're leading a cruise out there you got to make sure everybody comes off with what they need. Not just what they need, more than what they need. That's the real goal and that's what makes the cruise really exciting; a lot of different people doing different works.
In these exploratory type missions, when you're bringing multiple investigators together, all have somewhat similar interests but certainly have their own defined goals. It becomes a real planning challenge and we had several meetings before this cruise even took place and a meeting with Peter Auster and other people to make sure we all achieve what we want to achieve. And that continued up to the very last day and even now we're doing it in terms of how we want to present our results and get our data out there. It's a challenge but it's a fun challenge and it takes constant communication. We wake up in the morning and we talk to each other immediately at breakfast about what we're going to do, what happened, you know, just a few hours ago. Because with this exploration type, things.., you go and you learn something as you go. And so your decision matrix changes over time. And so I'd often get up in the middle of the night and say, "OK Less, what happened in the last 3 hours while I was sleeping, that's going to change what we do tomorrow?" We'd have discussion about that. They were often tough decisions because it means if we pick up and leave, we'd get more time somewhere else to do more. But if we stay here we could get a little bit more done. Maybe get some more samples, animals, maybe do some more mapping; learn more. So it's always a give and a take and a challenge; and it's a balance.
And so it was thrilling to work with such great people. I think all of us were really happy about our results from the cruise.
Some of the more specific things I did on the last cruise were to plan where the dives were going to take place. These are seamounts that have never been visited before. We would go first and foremost mapping using a multi-beam symmetry system on the ship. With that map, we'd look at the geometry, if you will, of the seamount to see where there might be ledges where animals like coral love to be; in the flow of the currents on hard bottom. So we try to pick those locations. And again, we're trying to make sure the goals of my group, which were getting the animals associated with the coral, not the corals themselves per se, as well as those who wanted fossilized corals for their research or want other types of coral for there research. So a part of my job was to pick those sites where we'd be diving and figure out when we'd get in the water. When we'd have to be out of the water to get to the next site and map the next site. A lot of linguistically things had to happen. Deciding who gets what lab space and who needs what, to who's going to stand watch with a remotely operated a vehicle system. We have three watches that have to happen. You have to pair people up so we have a specialist for each one of those for a certain thing. It gets quite complicated in many ways. That's all in preparation. Then there's the recovery of the animals that takes place. During the watch, with the RVs on the bottom, you're selecting which ones you want based on the questions you have. Which species you're looking for. We get those on the vehicle. The vehicle comes up. Now there’s a whole other suite of things that have to happen and be organized and be directed. And basically it's making sure everybody understands their job and is doing their job like a well-oiled machine. We did a fantastic job.