Operation Florida Coast Deep Corals 2005 Explorers

Sandra BrookeSandra Brooke
Principal Investigator
Research Associate
Oregon Institute of Marine Biology

Sandra Brooke earned her Bachelors in Biological Sciences from Essex University in England and spent a few years working in mosquito control before discovering marine biology.   Her Masters degree (1996) was from the Virginian Institute of Marine Biology in Virginia, and her PhD (2002) was a joint venture between the University of Southampton in England and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Florida. Her dissertation research focused on the reproduction of a deepwater stony coral called Oculina varicosa, which forms large fragile reef systems at 100m depth along the shelf edge of Florida’s Atlantic coast.   Her research described the seasonal cycles of egg production (gametogenesis), number of eggs produced (fecundity), and the development and biology of the coral larvae.  Sandra is currently working as a Research Associate at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology where she is involved in several deepwater coral projects including a National Marine Fisheries Service Alaska project to survey deepwater coral systems off the Aleutian Islands, reproduction of Lophelia pertusa in the Norwegian Fjords with the Trondheim Biological station in Norway, and habitat characterization of deepwater coral habitats in the Gulf of Mexico.

Don CollinsDon Collins
National Oceanographic Data Center

Don Collins is an oceanographer for the NOAA National Oceanographic Data Center. He works primarily on problems relating to creating effective metadata for oceanographic data sets (for both discovery and long term usability), developing and improving archival management systems for digital data, and defining international standards for exchanging oceanographic data. This is his second voyage as data manager for the Office of Ocean Exploration. Don has a BS in geology from Indiana University, an MS in oceanography from the University of New Hampshire, and an MLS from the University of Maryland.

Stephanie Farrington-RogersStephanie Farrington-Rogers
Graduate Student
Nova Southeastern University

Stephanie is a gradate student at Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center, majoring in Marine Biology. Her thesis topic is Biogeography of The Straits of Florida, working under the auspices of Dr. Charles Messing with an expected graduation date of June 2006. She is a PADI Dive Master certified in Nitrox, CPR and First Aid, and O2 Rescue with an Equipment Specialty. Stephanie currently works for the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program where she performs nest relocation, excavations and hatchling releases. She is an amateur photographer pursuing course work in the field of underwater videography.

Ahna Van GaestAhna Van Gaest
Graduate Student
Oregon Institute of Marine Biology

Ahna Van Gaest received a Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Oregon in 2003. She is currently working on a M.S. in Marine Biology at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology in Charleston, Oregon. Ahna’s thesis work investigates the reproduction and larval biology of Bathynerita naticoidea (Gastropoda: Neritidae), a grazing snail restricted to Gulf of Mexico hydrocarbon seeps at depths ranging from 400 to 1000 meters. Of particular interest is whether larvae migrate to the euphotic zone to feed and whether they are capable of long-distance dispersal between seep sites separated by tens to hundreds of kilometers.

Richard Grant Gilmore Richard Grant Gilmore, Jr., Ph.D.
Fish Ecologist, Senior Research Scientist
Estuarine Coastal and Ocean Science, Inc.

Grant Gilmore is an ichthyologist and fish ecologist with over 70 technical publications associated with marine/estuarine fish ecology, systematics, evolution, and behavior.  His studies have encompassed environments in Florida and throughout the Caribbean basin and the Eastern Pacific, utilizing manned and unmanned submersibles and remote and manned passive acoustic and visual systems.  Dr. Gilmore has been a participant or co-organizer of 16 nationally and internationally televised documentaries on marine research for Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Audubon, FOX, and New Zealand TV.  On the Florida Coast Deep Corals expedition, he will be identifying and quantifying fishes associated with deep coral formations and recording ambient biological sounds associated with deep coral formations.  A sound library will be composed including classification of potential sound source candidates.

Tracy GriffinTracy Griffin
High School Teacher
Brevard County, Florida

Tracy is a high school science teacher in Brevard County, Florida.  She received a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science from Eckerd College in 1995 and a Masters in Marine Biology from Florida Tech in 2000.  Her Master's research focused on marine invertebrate reproduction.  Prior to stepping into the classroom, Tracy worked as a Research Assistant in the Department of Larval Ecology at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, as well as a Marine Science Instructor in the Marine Education Division.  The combination of research and teaching has allowed Tracy to share her experiences, helping to stress the importance of the world's oceans and the role of research in today's society.

Jerry Harasewych, Ph. D.Jerry Harasewych, Ph. D.
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC

Jerry Harasewych is the Curator of Marine Mollusca at the National Museum of Natural History, and an expert on the classification, evolution, biogeography and molecular genetics of deep sea snails.  A veteran diver, Dr. Harasewych has used research submersibles to study and sample deep sea organisms throughout the temperate and tropical western Atlantic.  He has published many scientific papers on the abyssal mollusks of Antarctica, limpets from the Puerto Rico Trench, and especially on slit-shells, living fossils that inhabit the outer continental shelf and upper continental slopes of tropical oceans.  During this cruise, Dr. Harasewych will survey molecular markers of several different organisms from along the east coast of Florida to determine if the East Florida Ecotone, which forms a barrier to gene flow in many shallow water organisms, affects the outer shelf andupper slope faunas.

Johanna JarnegrenJohanna Järnegren
Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Johanna is presently in the final year of her PhD, trying to sum up her research of the past three years.  She is working on two species of bivalves in the genus Acesta, one living in the northeast Atlantic, and the other residing on the cold seeps in the Gulf of Mexico. Her work compares these two species, looking at how they have solved living in two totally different habitats with different nutritional bases.   Johanna is also interested in the cold water coral Lophelia pertusa, a primary target species of the Florida Coast Deep Corals expedition.   She is currently involved in efforts to get the corals to spawn so that their larvae and life history can be described and studied.

Elisabeth D. JacobiElisabeth D. Jacobi
High School Teacher
Broward County, Florida

Elisabeth teaches marine science at Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida. She received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Florida International University. Elisabeth worked as a lab technician and research assistant for several years before deciding to become a high school teacher. Her goal is to share her knowledge and love of the marine environment with her students so that they may develop an appreciation and respect for the aquatic realm.

Amanda ManessAmanda Maness
Graduate Student
University of North Carolina, Wilmington

Amanda M. Maness earned her Bachelors degree at Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 2004.  She is a current Marine Science graduate student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.  Amanda's thesis work involves investigating the use of acoustic seabed classification as a tool for effective benthic habitat assessment for the Oculina Habitat Area of Particular Concern, southeast Florida shelf.  She is also a teaching assistant for Physical Geography and Geographic Information Systems labs at the university.  Research cruises include: Multibeam sonar mapping cruise offshore southeast Florida in the summer of 2005, and an ROV cruise on the Oculina reefs in October 2005.

Charles Messing Charles G. Messing, Ph.D.
Professor of Oceanography
Oceanographic Center
Nova Southeastern University

Professor Charles G. Messing has been part of the South Florida marine biological community since 1970 when he began graduate work at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. While completing both M.S. (1975) and Ph.D. (1979) degrees, he accompanied several deep-sea dredging and coral reef research expeditions around the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. A Smithsonian post-doctoral research fellowship on the systematics and ecology of crinoids (sea lilies and featherstars) followed. Professor Messing's subsequent field research on crinoid ecology, biogeography and systematics has taken him to the Bahamas, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Micronesia, Australia and Malaysia. He has been using research submersibles, including both Alvin and Johnson Sea Link, since 1975 to study the distribution of deep-water invertebrates, as well as continuing his crinoid studies. He was the first to measure the growth of stalked sea lilies in situ. He is the author or co-author of 37 scientific articles. In addition to his research, he is a scientific illustrator and teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses at NSU, including biology and invertebrate zoology. He is also an actor of some experience, having written and performed a one-man show as Michelangelo.

Cheryl MorrisonCheryl Morrison, Ph.D.
Fisheries Biologist
USGS-BRD Leetown Science Center, Aquatic Ecology Branch
Co-Principal Investigator

Cheryl Morrison is a biologist for the USGS-BRD (U.S. Geological Survey – Biological Resource Discipline) Leetown Science Center. She works in a conservation genetics lab that aims to develop and use genetic techniques to determine population structure and management units for species of concern. Dr. Morrison earned a BS in marine biology at University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and her Ph.D. in biology at Florida State University. Dr. Morrison’s research interests can be broadly classified as molecular ecology- the use of molecular tools to understand the distributions of species and populations, and how this is influenced by their environments, behavior, and interactions with other organisms. Her research has involved the study of evolutionary relationships among tropical coral reef dwelling snapping shrimps, hermit crabs and other anomuran crustaceans, stream fishes, orchids, and freshwater mussels. Dr. Morrison is using molecular tools to study deep-sea coral biodiversity and population genetics. On the cruise, she will assist with sampling and data collection, including submersible operations, and will oversee the preservation of coral and invertebrate tissue for DNA studies. Morrison enjoys running, kayaking, SCUBA diving, and spending time with friends and family, especially her boyfriend and dog.

Barb LubinskiJulie Olson, Ph.D.
University of Alabama

Julie Olson is an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama with a specialty in the area of microbial ecology. She completed her undergraduate work at Miami University, Oxford, OH, with a degree in microbiology prior to obtaining a PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in microbial ecology. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the Biomedical Marine Research group at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution and was introduced to, and fell in love with, deep-water marine research. She joined the faculty at the University of Alabama in 2001. Her research interests focus on characterizing the microbial communities that inhabit a variety of freshwater and marine environments. Other areas of interest include increasing the recoverability of microorganisms and examining host-microbial associations, particularly of sponges and corals. She will be examining the microbial communities associated with both living and dead corals, the ambient water column, and surrounding sediments during the Florida Coast Deep Corals expedition. Relatively little is known about the abundance, distribution, and ecology of deep-water corals in US waters, and she is excited about the opportunity to address those questions on this expedition.

Valerie Paul, Ph.DValerie Paul, Ph.D.
Head Scientist
Smithsonian Marine Station

Valerie J. Paul received her B.A. from the University of California, San Diego in 1979 with majors in Biology and Studies in Chemical Ecology and her Ph.D. in Marine Biology in 1985 from the University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography.   She was a member of the faculty of the University of Guam Marine Laboratory from 1993-2002. She was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1996 and was elected and served as chairperson of the Marine Natural Products Gordon Research Conference in 2000 (vice-chair in 1998).  She currently serves on the editorial boards of the journals Coral Reefs and Journal of Natural Products.  She is the author or co-author of over 140 research papers and review articles.  Valerie’s research interests include marine chemical ecology, marine plant-herbivore interactions, coral reef ecology, and marine natural products.

Melany P. Puglisi, Ph.D.Melany P. Puglisi, Ph.D.
Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce
Postdoctoral Fellow

Melany Puglisi received a BS in chemistry from Southampton College and a MS in biology from the University of Guam where she was introduced to the field of marine chemical ecology.  She received her PhD from the University of Mississippi. Her research addressed the intra-specific variation of chemical defenses of Pacific gorgonian corals.   Her first postdoctoral experience was with Professor William Fenical at Scripps Institution of Oceanography where she studied the antimicrobial defenses of tropical marine algae from the Caribbean and Pacific islands. Melany joined the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce in 2004 as a postdoctoral research scientist working with Dr. Valerie Paul. Her general research interests are predator-prey and microbial-mediated interactions of benthic marine invertebrates, algae and seagrasses.  She is studying the chemical defenses of algae and seagrasses of Florida against co-occurring strains of facultative and marine fungi.  She has participated in numerous field expeditions and one research cruise aboard the Seward Johnson II.  Melany is devoted to the education of children, bringing her knowledge of marine science and chemistry to the classroom of elementary and secondary school students as a special project educator.

John K. ReedJohn K. Reed [ microphone OceanAGE interview ]
Senior Scientist
Division of Biomedical Marine Research (DBMR)
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution (HBOI)

John Reed is co-Principal Investigator on the Florida Coast Deep Corals expedition. He is senior scientist at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution’s DBMR, heading the Sample Acquisition and Taxonomy Program for biomedical research to discover pharmaceutically active compounds from marine organisms.  He is chief scientist for DBMR in charge of supervising and organizing more than 60 worldwide collection expeditions for biomedical research with HBOI’s research vessels, submersibles, and land-based expeditions.  He is responsible for curating 30,000 specimens of marine organisms in DBMR’s taxonomic museum collection and managing the collection database, photographic library, and videotape library.  John is also the Diving Safety Officer for all diving activities of 60 research divers from Harbor Branch vessels.  He has logged 35 deep-water lockout dives with helium-oxygen from Johnson-Sea-Link submersibles, more than 2000 scientific scuba dives, and more than 150 scientific dives in the Johnson-Sea-Link and Clelia submersibles. John’s research on the deep-water Oculina coral banks exit icon External Link off Florida since 1976 has resulted in over 45 publications and the establishment of a 300 square mile Marine Protected Area for these reefs.  John received his B.S. from the University of Miami and M.S. specializing in marine ecology from Florida Atlantic University in 1975.


Cindy RenkasCindy Renkas
Web Coordinator
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration

Cindy Renkas has been a classroom science teacher for most of her adult life. She has no idea how she became interested in oceanography growing up as she did in Wyoming, but the interest flourished when she lived in Charleston, South Carolina and taught at a school directly on Charleston Harbor. From 1999-2004, she taught in international schools in Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa and Caracas, Venezuela, arriving in both countries just in time for coup d'etats which created opportunities for many up-close-and-personal history in the making lessons. She is thrilled to be able to bring up-close-and-personal ocean science in the making experiences to the public through her position as an Educational Specialist with NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration.

Raphael Ritson-WilliamsRaphael Ritson-Williams
Research Technician
Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

Raphael Ritson-Williams is currently working as a technician in the field of marine chemical ecology. After receiving his MS in marine biology from the University of Guam in 2002, he moved to Florida to continue his ecological studies of marine natural products with Dr. Valerie Paul.  His research interests focus on coral reef organisms and the natural product compounds that influence their evolution and ecology.  Recent research projects include the feeding ecology of coral reef herbivores and predators, chemical and aposematic defenses in nudibranchs, and chemical cues for larval settlement and metamorphosis.

Anja SchulzeAnja Schulze, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Smithsonian Marine Station

Anja Schulze obtained her Ph.D. in 2001 from the University of Victoria where she studied the fauna at deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Her dissertation research focused on the evolution of tubeworms from these extreme environments. She has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (2001) and at Harvard University (2002-2004) where she continued studying the evolution of marine invertebrates using molecular techniques. Since 2004 she is a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce, FL. Her current research concentrates on larval development and evolution in sipunculan worms (peanut worms or star worms). A diver since 1991, she has conducted field work in the Caribbean, in Micronesia, in Europe and the US.  She has also participated in two deep-sea research cruises to the hydrothermal vents at the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the Northeast Pacific.


William W. Schroeder, Ph.D.William W. Schroeder, Ph.D.
Professor, Marine Science/Senior Marine Scientist
University of Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Dr. Schroeder is a Professor of Marine Science with the University of Alabama and a Senior Marine Scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. He has been involved in interdisciplinary oceanographic investigations for over 40 years and has conducted research along the coast, on the continental margins and in the deep water of the northern Gulf of Mexico for the past 36 years. In addition, he has participated in international research endeavors in Australia, Azov Sea, Bahamas, Caribbean, Gulf of Papua and South Africa. He has authored and coauthored over 125 scientific publications. Recent research activities include: coupled biological-geological-physical studies of deepwater corals in the Gulf of Mexico; an integrated study of physical and biological processes along the west coast of Australia; Late Quaternary sea level and paleoceanography investigations of hardbottom sites in the northern Gulf of Mexico; and the development of a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model for Mobile Bay, Alabama. He is currently serving on the following advisory and review boards: USDI-MMS-OCS-SAC ‘Deepwater Development Issues’ and ‘Arctic’ Subcommittees; Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission ‘Bottom Mapping Work Group’; Third International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals ‘Science Advisory Committee’; and USDI-MMS/Texas A&M University, Scientific Review Board, ‘Deepwater Program: Northern Gulf of Mexico Continental Slope Habitats and Benthic Ecology’.

James Darwin Thomas, PhD James Darwin Thomas, PhD
Professor; Fulbright Scholar, AAAS Science Fellow
Invertebrate Biology/Biological Oceanography
Nova Oceanographic Center

Dr. Thomas has conducted extensive field research in marine biodiversity and biogeography of tropical and subtropical marine systems, especially coral reefs. His specialty is documenting evolutionary diversity in coral reef and near-shore tropical marine ecosystems. He has held posts as Curator of Crustacea at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and served as Research Director for the National Coral Reef Institute.  The majority of Dr. Thomas’s research efforts involve the taxonomy, systematics, and ecology of amphipod crustaceans, especially commensal species that inhabit interior cavities of sponges, ascidians, and bivalve mollusks. Recent studies focusing on in-situ collection of potential hosts in deepwater habitats have yielded a wealth of new commensal species and host records.   Very little is known about commensal associates of deepwater sponges. During the cruise Dr. Thomas hopes to survey a variety of sponges and document new species and commensal associations of amphipods and other invertebrates. This will be his first experience in a manned submersible research project.

Douglas C. WeaverDouglas C. Weaver
Research/GIS Specialist
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Doug is a marine biologist at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, and has been diving and conducting research in the Gulf of Mexico for 18 years. He received his undergraduate degrees in marine biology and art from Millersville University, PA, and his master’s degree in Zoology from the University of Florida. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in reef fish ecology and deep reef habitat characterization. Doug has made over 800 SCUBA dives worldwide, and has participated in 35 research cruises, including submersible dives in the Johnson Sea Link, Clelia, and Deepworker research submersibles. He is a trained Deepworker submersible pilot and an ROV pilot-in-training. His research interests include coral reef fish biology and ecology, and landscape ecology of shelf-edge hardbottom and coral reef communities. His hobbies include marine life illustration and bronze sculpture, reef aquariums, and underwater photography.