James Connors is a web producer for NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. He normally works behind the scenes, helping to create many of the expeditions featured on the Ocean Explorer website. On this occasion, however, he will be joining the team aboard the Ron Brown to coordinate NOAA's coverage of the Mid-Atlantic Canyons project first-hand. James has always been fascinated by marine life, growing up split between the Chesapeake and Gulf of Maine regions, and welcomes the challenge of cultivating an everyday understanding of natural science in the public—thereby enhancing social consciousness—in a time when human activity continues to radically alter the planet.
Amanda Demopoulos is a Research Benthic Ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at the Southeast Ecological Science Center in Gainesville, Florida. She received a B.S.in Oceanography from the University of Washington (1996), and M.S. (2000) and Ph.D. (2004) in Biological Oceanography from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. After completing a post-doctoral fellowship at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, she joined the USGS in 2007 as a Research Ecologist and currently serves as principal investigator for the USGS Diversity, Systematics, and Connectivity of Vulnerable Reef Ecosystems (DISCOVRE) program and chief scientist for the USGS Mid-Atlantic Canyons project. Her overall research program examines the ecology of coastal and deep-sea environments and associated food webs. On this cruise, she will be sampling the benthos using cores deployed by the ship and remotely operated vehicle to examine benthic invertebrates associated with deep-sea canyons and shipwrecks. In addition, she will process water samples, plankton, invertebrates, and fish for stable isotope analysis to help elucidate the structure and function of marine canyon food webs.
Michael Gray is a microbiologist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Coastal and Marine Science Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. Mike earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Eckerd College (1998) and his M.S. in Marine Science from the University of South Florida (2003), both in St. Petersburg, FL. In his time working at the USGS, Mike has studied the impacts of African Dust and its transportation of microbes to the Caribbean, human-induced changes in the microbiology of cave systems in Carlsbad National Park, and coral diseases in the Florida Keys. His current research interests focus on the microbial communities of deep-water corals, using next-generation sequencing techniques to characterize and understand the structure and function of these communities.
For 34 years, Emmy-award winning photographer and producer Art Howard has helped viewers experience life through images from 50 countries and seven continents. A native North Carolinian, he has followed researchers aboard multiple deep-sea missions, documenting the excitement and challenges of offshore reef exploration. Art will use the latest video technology to bring viewers as close as possible to life at sea from the surface to depths of 3,000 feet, capturing both the scientists and the life they seek to understand. Howard has spent the last 11 years independently producing media for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
Marc Lavaleye is a deep-sea specialist and is especially interested in the marine bottom fauna, from small worms to big squids. As a student he joined his first major seagoing cruise in 1976, and since then never missed a year to add one or more cruises. During this cruise, quantitative bottom samples will be taken with the NIOZ boxcorer, which will be sieved over very fine sieves (0.2 millimeters), and all animals will be preserved for later identification. Smaller subsamples will be taken to analyze Foraminifera and to measure the available food (fresh algae). Near-bottom water samples are collected to analyze the suspended particles. We do this to get a better idea of the fauna in a canyon, and how they manage to survive here. Although he participated in lots of cruises, he is still very excited as this is again a new deep-sea area for him.
Rod Mather is the director of the archaeology and anthropology graduate program at the University of Rhode Island and the advisor of the university’s underwater archaeology undergraduate program. He received his bachelor of arts from Leeds University in 1986, his master of arts from East Carolina University in 1990, and his doctorate from New College in Oxford in 1996. Dr. Mather will direct the archaeological aspects of the Atlantic Deepwater Canyons project and will focus his attention on the discovery, identification, and assessment of submerged historic and pre-contact sites.
Jennifer McClain-Counts is a biological technician at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at the Southeast Ecological Science Center (SESC) in Gainesville, Florida. Jennie received her B.S. degree in Marine Biology (2006) and her M.S. degree in Marine Science (2010) from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. She is interested in the use of stable isotopes to determine trophic (food chain) relationships and currently works with Dr. Amanda Demopoulos (USGS - SESC) to examine the trophic and community structure of marine fauna collected in various habitats, such as wetlands, offshore wrecks, and deep-sea coral. During the cruise, Jennie will process push cores and box core samples for macrofauna analyses.
Kirstin Meyer just started as a graduate student at the OIMB in the fall of 2012. Born in Michigan, she earned her B.S. in Zoology from Northern Michigan University in 2011 and then studied for a year in northern Germany at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, funded by a Fulbright Study-Research grant. Kirstin's research interest lies in benthic deep-sea invertebrates, specifically how the community of invertebrates is affected by the availability of hard substrate. She used a deep-sea camera system to study the benthic community in Germany and will be collecting samples and recording video of animals that inhabit shipwrecks on this cruise.
James Moore is a marine archaeologist in the Division of Environmental Sciences at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's national headquarters and serves as the discipline contact for the agency's studies pertaining to cultural resources. Dr. Moore received his B.S. degree in marine science from Eckerd College in 2000, his M.A. in history from East Carolina University in 2003, and his Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Rhode Island in 2011. He has participated in research expeditions in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Black Seas; the Gulf of Mexico; and the Atlantic. His research interests include the corrosion behavior of iron and steel shipwrecks, deep sea survey and mapping technology, and the maritime history of vessels from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Cheryl Morrison is a geneticist at the U.S. Geological Survey Leetown Science Center. She received her bachelor of science in marine biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 1991 and her Ph.D. from Florida State University in Biological Sciences in 1997. Dr. Morrison has always loved the ocean, from tide pools in the northeastern U.S. to tropical coral reefs. She has been studying deep coral ecosystems for 10 years in the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic Bight. Her current research involves using genetic techniques to estimate connectivity, or dispersal of juvenile coral larvae, between geographically separated populations. Estimates of connectivity give managers information about sensitivity of populations since highly connected populations are likely to be re-populated following damage. During the mission she will be collecting corals and squat lobster associates that will be taken back to the lab for analysis.
Nancy Prouty is an oceanographer at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, California. She received her Ph.D. at Stanford University in the Oceans Programs in 2004 after earning an M.S. at the University of New Hampshire. Her scientific background includes atmospheric chemistry, oceanography, and climate change. Using geochemical signals preserved in “natural recorders” (e.g., ice cores and coral records) of climate variability, Nancy has focused her research on enhancing our understanding of climate variability on human-relevant timescales and impact of human activities on the climate. Her training includes a postdoctoral position at the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Ocean Research (CICOR), a NOAA Cooperative Institute at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. She joined the USGS in 2006 as a Mendenhall Fellow as part of the Ridge-to-Reef studies in Hawaii. She is now working as a research oceanographer as part of the Coral Reef Project and is a member of the Diversity, Systematics, and Connectivity of Vulnerable Reef Ecosystems (DISCOVRE) team. Nancy’s geochemical analytical research at the USGS has focused on the effects of understanding both present and past effects of climate changes on coral reef ecosystems, both shallow-water and deep-cold water coral ecosystems.
Dr. Brendan Roark is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and the Ocean Drilling and Sustainable Earth Sciences (ODASES) at Texas A&M University. He earned his B.A. degree at the University of Colorado, his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the University California, Berkeley, and did post-doctoral training at Stanford University. Brendan is a paleoceanographer whose research emphasis is in stable isotope biogeochemistry, trace metal analyses, and geochronology using radiocarbon and U/Th dating methods to study ocean and climate variability over the last 50,000 years. He has been doing research on reconstructing past oceanographic conditions using biogeochemical signals measured in the skeleton’s of deep-sea corals for more than 10 years, working with both submersibles and remotely operated vehicles in the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. One of the more interesting outcomes of this research is that we have demonstrated that some species of deep-sea corals can be extremely long lived: 2,700 and 4,200 years for Gerardia sp. and Leiopathes sp., respectively, and thus may be unique archives of intermediate ocean water variability.
Mike Rhode is a Coastal and Deep-sea Fisheries Research Specialist with the Center for Marine Science at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He earned a B.S. in biology from Kutztown University and an M.S. in marine studies from the University of Delaware, College of Marine Studies. His master’s project consisted of comparing the dynamics of the larval fish assemblages at two coastal Delaware inlets. Mike also spent three years at the Marine Science Consortium in Wallops Island, Virginia, as the equipment manager, college coordinator, and programs manager. Mike has participated in several offshore cruises and during this mission he will be chief of the night watch. His responsibilities also include assisting with gear management, data collection, and fish identifications.
Craig is working towards his Ph.D. in deep-sea ecology in at Bangor University. His dissertation focuses on ecosystem functioning in submarine canyons, involving a complete appraisal of the hydrodynamic regime, sediment flux, and food supply influencing the benthic habitats and fauna found at these biodiversity hotspots. Prior to his Master of Science degree in Marine Environmental Protection, he participated in EU cold-water coral reef projects in the North Atlantic, specifically looking at the ecology of Lophelia pertusa and associated microbial communities. He has considerable experience in macro-faunal analysis having worked for several years as a benthic taxonomist in commercial marine science, specialising in fauna from around the North Atlantic and the Middle East. He will be working on benthic fauna with Dr. Amanda Demopoulos and benthic landers with the NIOZ team.
Dr. Ross is a native of North Carolina and has spent most of his career involved in marine science of the southeast region. He earned a BS degree in zoology from Duke University, a Master’s degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and a PhD from North Carolina State University. He was the Research Coordinator for the North Carolina Coastal Reserve Program for 13 years. He is currently a research faculty at University of North Carolina-Wilmington and also has led offshore studies for the U.S. Geological Survey. His area of specialization is ichthyology (fishes), particularly in areas of ecology and life history studies (age, growth, feeding, reproduction). He has conducted numerous, diverse projects in estuaries and offshore waters and has served as chief scientist on many cruises, including those using submersibles and remotely operated vehicles. The current work of Dr. Ross and his team involves assessment of the fish communities of unique deep water habitats off the southeastern U.S. in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Middle Atlantic Bight. In particular, they are looking at energy flow (trophodynamics) and relationships of animals to various habitats, including coral banks, canyon systems, and rocky areas. Dr. Ross is also involved with European scientists in conducting deep-sea trans-Atlantic ecosystem studies. One ultimate goal of this research program is to provide information for these poorly known areas that will facilitate management and protection of productive and vulnerable habitats. [View Dr. Ross' OceanAGE Career interview]
Esprit Heestand Saucier received her B.A. in Zoology in 2006 and her masters in 2009 at The Ohio State University under Dr. Meg Daly. Currently, Esprit is a Ph.D. student and Board of Regent Fellow at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette under Dr. Scott France. Her current research focuses on using genetics and morphology to examine the phylogenetic relationships within the deep-sea bamboo corals, Keratoisidinae, and describing new genera and species that have been discovered while working on the subfamily in collaboration with Scott France and Les Watling. She is also interested in the classification and distribution of cnidae within the deep-sea bamboo corals, the biogeographic distribution of bamboo corals in the coral triangle, and genetically assessing population- and species-level differences using the deep-sea bamboo coral Acanella as a model.
John Tomczuk is the Coral Coordinator for NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) and Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER). He is responsible for representing OAR and OER in matters pertaining to shallow coral ecosystems through the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. John also serves as the OER representative and coordinator for the NOAA Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program research activities to characterize deep-sea coral ecosystems along the U.S. South Atlantic, West Coast, Alaska, and Northeast including the development of three-year research plans for these programs, as well as organizing vessel and asset operations for research projects. Prior to joining OER, John spent five years in Guam and Micronesia working on coral reef conservation issues. During this cruise he will be the expedition coordinator working closely with the ship’s crew, researchers, and remotely operated vehicle team.
Gordon Watts is currently the director of Tidewater Atlantic Research (TAR) and the Institute for International Maritime Research (IIMR) in Washington, North Carolina. Dr. Watts received his M.A. in History from East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, and Ph.D. in Nautical Archaeology from St. Andrews University, Fife, Scotland. After working as an underwater archaeological research assistant with the Florida Department of Archives History and Records Management, Dr. Watts returned to North Carolina to join the Division of Archives and History to establish an ongoing underwater archaeology program. Dr. Watts has worked with the National Museum of Bermuda to investigate a number of 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th-century shipwrecks. In association with the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, additional research projects have been carried out in Jamaica, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. In conjunction with other agencies and organizations, project organization, development and research activities include: work on the USS Monitor, development of a planning document for the War of 1812 schooners Hamilton and Scourge in conjunction with the Ontario Heritage Foundation, surveys of Civil War shipwrecks in Mobile Bay and off Fort Fisher, North Carolina for the National Park Service, Documentation of the Confederate ironclads CSS Jackson for the Confederate Naval Museum, the CSS Neuse for the North Carolina Division of Archives and History and investigation of the CSS Alabama with the Naval Historical Center, Association CSS Alabama [France], and the CSS Alabama Association [USA].
Maya Watts received her B.S. in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston, South Carolina, and her Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Oregon in 2010. Her research background includes embryology, larval ecology, and parasite/host relationships of marine invertebrates from fouling, rocky shore, and deep-sea communities from both coasts and the Gulf of Mexico. Maya is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher with Drs. Sandra Brooke and Steve Ross examining the invertebrate associations of deep-sea coral and canyon habitats from historical and current cruises.