Deep East Explorers

Leg 1—Georges Bank Canyon

Dr. Les Watling
Dr. Peter Auster
Dr. Kevin Eckelbarger
Dr. Barbara Hecker
Diana Payne
Dr. Scott C. France
Caren Menard
Karl Stanford

Leg 2—Hudson River Canyon

Dr. Fred Grassle
Dr. Michael Bothner
Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch
Dr. Peter Rona
Dr. Mary Scranton
Holly Donovan
Tanya Podchaski
Rebecca Cerroni
Michael Deluca

Leg 3—Blake Ridge

Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover
Dr. Joan Bernhard
Dr. Carolyn Ruppel
Dr. Barun Sen Gupta
Paula Keener-Chavis
Andrew Shepard

Leg 1—Georges Bank Canyon

Dr. Les WatlingDr. Les Watling
Chief Scientist, Benthic Ecologist

Dr. Les Watling (Ph.D., University of Delaware) currently is a professor of oceanography at the University of Maine. His research interests have principally spanned two areas—crustacean taxonomy and phylogeny, and benthic (seafloor) oceanography. His benthic interests are focused on impacts of humans on benthic environments, with an emphasis on organic enrichment and habitat disruption. Recently, he was the co-sponsor of two symposia dealing with impacts of mobile fishing gear on ocean communities, such as the coral beds in the Georges Bank Canyons, and his research projects have focused on the potential loss of marine biodiversity associated with fishing activities. He has conducted much of his current work using research submersibles like Alvin.

Dr. Peter AusterDr. Peter Auster
Fish Biologis

Dr. Peter Auster (Ph.D., University of Wales) is the science director of the National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut. His research in fish habitat conservation has earned him national recognition. For example, NOAA named him an Environmental Hero for the Year 2000 for his ecologic research at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. His diving interests and research span three decades and span the globe from the deep lakes of Africa to the reefs of Bonaire, and have included hundreds of dives using occupied submersibles and remotely operated vehicles. Often with Dr. Les Watling, he investigates the impacts of mobile fishing gear on benthic communities off the coast of New England.

Dr. Kevin Eckelbarger
Invertebrate Ecologist

Dr. Kevin Eckelbarger (Ph.D., Northeastern University) is a professor of marine science at the University of Maine. He studies the factors that control reproductive cycles in marine invertebrates, particularly those in deep-water habitats using research submersibles. Through the use of electron microscopy, his research has helped explain how food supply drives egg production in deep water invertebrates, which often have access to limited food supplies. Of particular interest to him are the factors that determine whether a deep-sea species undergoes annual or continuous reproduction, often in the absence of environmental cues (light, food, temperature change) that influence the reproductive cycles of shallow water species.


HeckerDr. Barbara Hecker
Deep Sea Biologist

Dr. Barbara Hecker (Ph.D., State University of New York, Stony Brook) runs her own consulting business, Hecker Environmental Consulting, and is associated with the Boston University Marine Program in Woods Hole, Mass. Her research interests focus on understanding offshore, marine benthic communities and factors that control the distribution of deep-sea megafauna (animals larger than a few centimeters). Since these organisms live on and within the sea floor, much of her work focuses on faunal/geological interactions. Possessing a better understanding of how organisms interact with their environment allows us to better predict possible impacts to the environment from human activities such as fishing and waste disposal. Because the deep-sea habitats she studies are relatively inaccessible, her research also involves devising methodologies (field and mathematical) for conducting large-scale benthic surveys using whatever works best, e.g., trawling, box-coring, dredging, photo-surveys using towed camera sleds, submersibles, remotely operated vehicles and laser line scanners.

Diana PayneDiana Payne
Biologist and Northeast Region Education/Web Coordinator

Diana Payne (MS, Southern Connecticut State University) is the assistant curator of education at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Conn., and the principal investigator for Connecticut Sea Grant K-12 Educational Outreach. She has conducted aquatic toxicity laboratory research and field research on cetaceans in New Zealand and on bird species in Long Island Sound. Her experience in marine and aquatic education has extended throughout New England and the Chesapeake Bay region, with a strong focus on teacher professional development and the integration of field and research science into the classroom. Diana was listed in Who's Who Among Professionals in 1999, and is actively involved in professional organizations including the Sea Grant Educators Network, Southeastern New England Marine Educators, and National Marine Educators Association. She was a member of the team that produced the lesson plans for Deep East, and will serve as the Education/Web Coordinator for Leg 1 of the Deep East Expedition.


Dr. FranceDr. Scott C. France
Deep Sea Biologist

Dr. Scott France (Ph.D., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego) is a biology professor at the College of Charleston. He has long been interested in dispersal among deep-sea invertebrate populations and how this affects their evolution. He was attracted to a career in marine biology when, as a fine-arts major at Concordia University taking an elective course in Oceanography, he learned about the discovery of deep-sea hydrothermal vents and immediately switched majors. He has analyzed genetic variation among scavenging amphipods from a variety of deep-sea habitats, including hydrothermal vents, abyssal plains, and deep trenches. Dr. France’s current research focuses on patterns of variation in mitochondrial genes of deep-sea octocorals using DNA sequencing technology.

MenardCaren Menard

Caren Menard (MS, Central Connecticut State University) has taught at W.F Kaynor RVTS High School in Waterbury, Connecticut for seventeen years. She has been involved in the JASON Project as a Teacher Argonaut for Expedition XI. Caren received the Connecticut Board of Education Exemplary Achievement Award, NASA Teacher of Excellence Award , W.F. Kaynor Teacher of the Year, was listed in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers for 1998 and 2000 and received the Red Apple Award for outstanding achievement in environmental education. Caren is on a year sabbatical to research professional development using computer based technology. She was a member of the team that developed the Deep East curriculum, and is an educator on board for Leg 1 of the expedition, working with fellow teacher Karl Stanford from Maine. Being a part of the Deep East Expedition is a thrilling experience for her, enabling her to bring the excitement of research into the classroom.

StanfordKarl Stanford

Karl Stanford (BS University of Montana) teaches 9-12 biology, forestry and botany at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, Maine. Karl just recently got involved with Deep East and is looking forward to incorporating the curriculum into his classes. Karl has research experience in terrestrial ecosystems, but he is excited about learning and teaching about the ecology of deep ocean ecosystems as part of the Deep East expedition team. Karl and Caren Menard, the other teacher on board, will be working with Diana Payne writing about the daily operations aboard R/V Atlantis. Look for their daily log entries as Deep East and the Atlantis crew get under way.

Leg 2—Hudson River Canyon

Dr. Fred GrassleDr. Fred Grassle
Chief Scientist, Deep Sea Ecologist

Dr. Fred Grassle (Ph.D. Duke University) is the director of Rutgers University’s Institute for Coastal and Marine Science. His marine science career has included research on relationships of sediment transport processes to benthic community structure, measurement of biodiversity especially in the deep sea, and interdisciplinary studies of benthic ecosystems. He headed investigations prior to, during and after the disposal of sewage sludge at a site 106 miles off the coast of New Jersey, on the flank of Hudson Canyon. This research included many dives in the Alvin submersible. He also is the chair of the Scientific Steering Committee for the Census of Marine Life, a major international program that aims to inventory and understand biodiversity in the world’s oceans. New Alvin dives will build on his extensive knowledge of the long-term impacts of waste disposal and biodiversity of the deep sea.

(Read an interview with Dr. Grassle)

Dr. Michael BothnerDr. Michael Bothner
Geochemical Oceanographer

Dr. Mike Bothner (Ph.D., University of Washington) works for the U.S. Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Mass. He has been involved with research on heavy metal contamination in coastal sediments since beginning with the USGS in 1974. He has used the distribution of heavy metals and radioactive isotopes to better understand the fate and transport of contaminants in Boston Harbor, on Georges Bank, and at the deep water 106 Mile Dumpsite off the coasts of New York and New Jersey (Read more about this study). He has participated in more than 80 oceanographic cruises and has more than 85 scientific publications, some of which document the decreasing level of contamination in surface sediments as a result of the reduction or elimination of the source.


Dr. Ellen K. PikitchDr. Ellen K. Pikitch
Fisheries Scientist

Dr. Ellen Pikitch (Ph.D., Indiana University) is the director of Marine Conservation Programs at the Wildlife Conservation Society. In this capacity, she oversees the society's field and laboratory marine and freshwater research and conservation efforts. Her research focuses on fisheries science and management with particular expertise in the areas of bycatch and quantitative fisheries assessment. She currently is working on a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation (2000-2003) to develop a "seascape" fisheries approach that promotes cost-effective, sustainable, multi-species ocean management. Ellen served on the president’s Ocean Exploration Panel that endorsed initiation of Voyages of Discovery

(Read the Ocean Exploration Panel's report).

Dr. Peter RonaDr. Peter Rona
Marine Geologist

Dr. Peter Rona (Ph.D., Yale University) is a geology professor at Rutgers University. His research interests include sea-floor hydrothermal systems, ocean ridge processes, the geology of Atlantic continental margins, and the genesis of sea-floor mineral and energy resources. His research program on sea-floor hydrothermal systems involves the development and application of innovative sonar techniques to image the plumes and deep-diving research submersibles, including Alvin. He now is part of a Rutgers research program to determine processes involved in the transfer of natural and anthropogenic materials between the continent and the deep ocean basin. The focus of this program is the continental margin of New Jersey near the Hudson Canyon. He is an expert on the formation of large-scale sea-floor features, such as continental slope slumps and canyons, and is working on the hypothesis that a massive slump feature near the Hudson Canyon was created by the meltdown of a massive gas hydrate bed under the slope during a previous low-sea-level stand.

(Read an interview with Dr. Rona)

ScrantonDr. Mary Scranton
Dr. Mary Scranton (Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) is a professor in marine sciences at the State University of New York—Stony Brook. Her research focuses on the aquatic cycling of organic compounds in sediments and in the water column. One of her current research programs is examining the importance of bacterial decomposition of organic material in the Hudson River. This seasonal study of bacterial activity in the Hudson River estuary and Western Long Island Sound will determine whether bacteria in the saline portions of the system also use a large component of terrestrially produced carbon. Results of this study will be of interest to managers who are trying to predict the impact of carbon loading on oxygen concentration in the harbor system. She will apply similar work to the Hudson Canyon.

(Read an interview with Dr. Scranton)

Holly DonovanHolly Donovan

Holly Donovan (BA Wells College foreign language and fine arts background, M.E.D. Beaver College) has been a third and fifth grade teacher for twelve years. She underwent training in the MARE (Marine Activities, Resources and Education) program at UC Berkeley and has been principal trainer for the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences (IMCS) MARE program. For Deep East, Holly was a trainer at the Deep East professional development workshop held at the New York Aquarium in August 2001. While on the Deep East expedition, Holly will be collaborating with Tanya Podchaski and Rebecca Cerroni to craft daily logs for the Ocean Explorer website.

Tanya PodchaskiTanya Podchaski

Tanya Podchaski (BS Environmental Science; Science Education Track, Cook College, Rutgers University) teaches earth science and biology to 9 - 12 grade students at Bernards High School. In her spare time, Tanya develops K-12 curriculum and help run the MARE (Marine Activities, Resources and Education) program for the IMCS (Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences) at Rutgers University. For Deep East, she developed two of the high school level lessons and was a trainer at the Deep East NY/NJ Professional Development Workshop. While on the expedition, she will be working with Rebecca Cerroni and Holly Donovan to create daily web logs about the new discoveries made and interesting things that are seen.

Rebecca CerroniRebecca Cerroni
Education and Media Specialist

Rebecca Cerroni (M.A. Marine Affairs and Policy, U. of Miami) is special projects administrator at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University. Her background includes hands-on marine science education as well as strong interests in international marine policy and marine protected areas. She will be joining Deep East for the first two legs and will be coordinating the port day events in New York City.


Michael DelucaMichael Deluca
Expedition Coordinator

Mike DeLuca is director of the Mid-Atlantic Bight Undersea Research Program and will be acting as cruise manager for Leg 2 of the Deep East Expedition. His research interests include environmental policy related to resource management; science education and the promotion of environmental awareness among students and educators; watershed approaches to coastal ecosystem management; dredge material management and sediment decontamination; and undersea technology. He also is the senior associate director of the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University and manager of the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Leg 3—Blake Ridge

Dr. Cindy Lee Van DoverDr. Cindy Lee Van Dover
Chief Scientist, Benthic Ecologist

Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover (Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) is a biology professor at the College of William and Mary. She is a deep-sea biologist with a special interest in the biology of hydrothermal vents and other chemosynthetic communities (ecosystems fed primarily by chemicals as opposed to light). Her numerous expeditions and published papers cover diverse topics such as reproductive strategies and recruitment of vent invertebrates, vent food webs, and taxonomic descriptions of new species. She is the only certified female pilot for Alvin. She qualified in 1990 and was pilot-in- command for 48 dives. Her subsequent research work with Alvin has taken her to nearly all of the known vent fields in the Atlantic and Pacific, as well as to deep-water sea mounts, cold seeps and many other significant deep sea-floor features. These studies contributed to her popular book about the deep sea and her experiences as an Alvin pilot (Deep-Ocean Journeys; Addison-Wesley, 1997) and the first textbook on hydrothermal vents (The Ecology of Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents; Princeton University Press, 2000). She will compare the newly discovered chemosynthetic mussel bed on the Blake Ridge with similar beds around the world.

(Read an interview with Dr. Van Dover)

Dr. Joan BernhardDr. Joan Bernhard

Dr. Joan Bernhard (Ph.D., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego) is a professor in environmental health sciences at the University of South Carolina. Cellular exposure to the lack of oxygen is common at both the organismal (within the body) and environmental level (in aquatic organically-polluted areas). A major focus of Dr. Bernhard’s work is to establish the effects of little to no oxygen on the survival, behavior and physiology of obligate aerobic cells, using foraminiferans as a model system. This basic scientific investigation is relevant to public health because the occurrence of environmental anoxia is increasing worldwide. Severe pollution pressure in the form of sewage dumping as well as from other anthropogenic activities (e.g., fertilizer runoff) is common, particularly in coastal areas. Oil and gas seeps, such as above the Blake Ridge hydrate bed, are natural settings for high organic input, low oxygen and her studies of such conditions on unicellular life.

(Read an interview with Dr. Bernhard)


Dr. Carolyn RuppelDr. Carolyn Ruppel
Marine Geophysicist

Dr. Carolyn Ruppel (Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is an associate professor in earth and atmospheric sciences at Georgia Tech and Coordinator of Georgia Tech's Focused Research Program on Gas Hydrates. Her research interests include methane gas hydrates, environmental geophysics for physical hydrologic applications (e.g., groundwater flux in estuaries), and quantitative tectonics. Her gas hydrate research includes modeling the dynamics of gas hydrate reservoirs; collaborative oceanographic studies with seismologists, geochemists, and biologists interested in constraining gas hydrate distribution and the long-term stability of the deposits; and field and laboratory measurements of thermal properties of gas hydrate systems. Her research is applied to gas hydrate studies in support of Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) projects on the Blake Ridge (Leg 164) and offshore Costa Rica (Leg 170) and NSF-ODP projects on the Peruvian margin and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dr. Barun Sen GuptaDr. Barun Sen Gupta
Foraminiferal Ecologist

Dr. Barun K. Sen Gupta (Ph.D., Indian Institute of Technology) is the Henry V. Howe Professor of Geology at Louisiana State University. His primary research interest is in the stratigraphy, biogeography, ecology, paleoecology and paleoceanography of benthic Foraminifera—single celled, shelled protozoans. Much of his current research is focused on adaptations of benthic Foraminifera in marine areas that are affected by natural or anthropogenic stresses. For studies of natural stress, a "laboratory" is provided by hydrocarbon seeps in the northern Gulf of Mexico, and Dr. Sen Gupta has spent considerable time documenting foraminiferal communities of these seeps, using occupied submersibles for direct observations and collections. He will compare the results of his previous work in the Gulf with data from the newly-discovered seep community on the Blake Ridge.

Paula Keener-ChavisPaula Keener-Chavis
Deep East Education Coordinator, Marine Biologist

Paula Keener-Chavis (MS, University of Charleston) is director of the South Carolina Statewide Systemic Initiative's Charleston Math & Science Hub at the College of Charleston, S.C. She has conducted extensive marine fisheries research off the southeastern coast of the U.S., sponsored by NOAA, and research off the coast of Belize, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution. She has published scientific articles on her research and writes articles for a variety of publications, including marine science curricula and a book entitled "Of Sand and Sea: Teachings From the Southeastern Shoreline." She served as a member of The President's Panel on Ocean Exploration and is Past-President (2000-2001) of the National Marine Educators Association. Paula headed up the team that produced lesson plans for the Deep East Expedition. She will help develop the daily logs during Leg 1 and write the logs during Leg 3 to the Blake Ridge.

Andrew ShepardAndrew Shepard
Deep East Expedition Coordinator

Andrew Shepard (MS, University of Massachusetts) is associate director of the National Undersea Research Center (NURP) at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. For the past 20 years, he has used advanced wet diving, occupied submersibles and unmanned robots to study undersea places that are inaccessible from surface ships alone. His research interests involve the application of the in situ underwater approach to a variety of issues, such as characterization of deep oil and gas lease sites in submarine canyons, and assessment of impacts of fishing gear on continental shelf habitats. He developed the original proposal for the Deep East expedition with the NURP regional centers at Rutgers University and the University of Connecticut, assisted in development of the education plan and lesson plans, recruited the television documentary team, and will coordinate Leg 3."


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