Christopher German, Ph.D., Chief Scientist for Deep Submergence, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Jamie Austin, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, University of Texas

Chris German is a UK native who grew up in Rochester, England, where the two preceding generations of his family had worked in the local Naval Dockyard.

After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Geology and a PhD in Marine Geochemistry (both at the University of Cambridge, UK) Chris first moved to the U.S. in 1988-90 as a NATO Post-Doctoral Fellow studying just-discovered hydrothermal vent systems with Professor John Edmond at the Massachussets Institute of Technology. During this period, Chris had his first experiences at sea with Alvin, in 1988 and 1989 and also spent two winter periods at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) as a Guest Investigator in the Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department.

In 1990, Chris returned to the England where he spent 15 years in the UK’s National Oceanography Centre, specializing in developing new approaches that took advantage of the latest technology to ROVs to AUVs in the exploration of the deep ocean. In 2000 he was awarded a suite of early career awards from the International Lithosphere Panel, from the UK’s Challenger Society for Marine Science and from the Times of London who selected him as one of the UK’s top ten “Scientists for the New Century”. Between 2000 and 2005, Chris was co-PI of the proposal that acquired the first deep-diving ROV for the UK (Isis, sister to WHOI’s Jason) and also began to pursue new directions in astrobiology and in the use of autonomous vehicles equipped with in situ sensors and artificial intelligence.

In 2002 he was awarded the MBE Medal “for services to Marine Science” by Queen Elizabeth II and in 2007 the University of Cambridge awarded him a Doctor of Science degree (ScD) – the highest award they can offer any scientist.

In 2005, Chris returned to WHOI as a Senior Scientist in the Geology and Geophysics Department where he also serves as WHOI’s Chief Scientist for Deep Submergence. A veteran of 50 research expeditions (12 as lead scientist) and just over three years of life at sea, Chris has also published more than 100 articles in the peer-reviewed literature and has served as Chair or Co-Chair for major international programs ranging from InterRidge to the Census of Marine Life as well as advising on issues concerning seafloor mining at the International Seabed Authority. 

Although recent events have seen Chris turn his skills to help with responses to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident, his first love remains the investigation of deep-sea hydrothermal systems.  His most recent cruises have taken him from the Caribbean to the southernmost tip of Chile.  In 2013, Chris led a major expedition tracking the fate of chemicals released from seafloor venting halfway across the Pacific. In 2014, he will undertake one of his most challenging endavors yet: Tracking down new vent sites and the novel animals they host beneath the permanently ice-covered Arctic.