Mission Plan


Peter AusterPeter Auster
Fish Ecologist
Director, National Undersea Research Center
Research Associate Professor, University of Connecticut

Peter Auster is the science director for the National Undersea Research Center and a research associate professor in the University of Connecticut Department of Marine Sciences. He is an ecologist and conservation biologist whose focus is marine fishes. Auster uses a range of diving technologies — from snorkel and scuba to deep sea submersibles — to study communities of fishes in an effort to understand how and why they vary across underwater landscapes, as well as how the behaviors of individuals vary in order to find prey and avoid predators. His research interests extend beyond basic science to include studies of the ecological effects of fishing and the role that marine protected areas can play in the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity.

Ivar BabbIvar Babb
Expedition Co-principal Investigator
National Undersea Research Center
University of Connecticut


Laure CorbariLaure Corbari
Research Scientist
National Museum of Natural History
Paris, France

Laure Corbari is a marine biologist at the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) in Paris, France. Her field of research is focused on crustacean biology. After earning her PhD on ostracods and their adaptative and physiological response to oxygenation, she became interested in deep-sea biology and started a three-year post-doc project on hydrothermal vent crustaceans and sunken wood fauna at the University of Liege, in Belgium. She has studied bacterial symbiotic interactions in decapods, amphipods, and isopods from these deep-sea environments. In addition to a broad research experience, Corbari has participated in multiple oceanographic cruises and has become well experienced in deep-sea expeditions. Recently hired by the MNHN, she is initiating new research objectives focused on population genetics and biogeography of crustaceans from deep-sea ecosystems such as seamounts.


Scott C. FranceScott C. France
Expedition Chief Scientist
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Scott France began studying the evolution of deep-sea invertebrates as a graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California – San Diego. Although he began college as a fine arts major, he was attracted to a career in marine biology when he took an elective course in oceanography and learned about the discovery of deep-sea hydrothermal vents. He immediately switched majors, and has since visited the deep-ocean floor off the Mariana Islands, Hawaii, Galapagos, and California, and in the North Atlantic. He has analyzed genetic variation of deep-sea invertebrates from a variety of habitats, including hydrothermal vents, abyssal plains, seamounts, and trenches. Dr. France's current research focuses on patterns of genetic variation in deep-sea octocorals and black corals. You can learn more at his lab Web site exit icon External Link.


Eric PanteEric Pante
Graduate Student
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Eric Pante earned his MS at the College of Charleston and entered the PhD program in evolutionary and environmental biology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, in 2006. He is interested in the ecology and evolution of marine invertebrates, and has participated in projects focusing on the zonation of macro-invertebrates within French Polynesian atoll lagoons, population dynamics and competitive interactions in estuarine fish ectoparasites, and temporal changes in Bahamian shallow-water coral communities. His doctoral research is centered on the phylogenetics and global biogeography of the Chrysogorgiidae, a primarily deep-sea family of octocorals. Pante is also interested in the evolution and conservation of invertebrates living on seamounts.


Mike RandallMike Randall
U.S. Geological Survey
Gainesville, Florida

Tim ShankTim Shank
Expedition Co-Principal Investigator
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Tim Shank received a bachelors degree in Biology and German from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, worked two years in genetic toxicology at the Environmental Protection Agency, and received his doctorate in ecology and evolution from Rutgers University. His primary research interests focus on understanding the ecological factors that affect the structure of diverse populations of deep-sea species. He combines molecular genetic approaches and ecological field studies to understand the conditions and adaptations that allow various species to migrate, evolve, and thrive in deep-sea habitats, including chemosynthetic ecosystems and potentially isolated seamounts. He has been on more than 25 scientific expeditions to deep-sea hydrothermal vents, hydrocarbon seeps, continental slopes, and seamounts in the Eastern Pacific, Northern Atlantic, Sea of Cortez, Northeast Pacific, Galápagos Rift, Southeast Pacific, and Central Indian Ocean. On these expeditions, his experiences include more than 50 submersible dives, 20 remotely operated vehicle dives, and 35 autonomous underwater vehicle dives.


Ken SulakKen Sulak
Research Fish Biologist
U.S. Geological Survey
Gainesville, Florida

Dr. Ken Sulak is a research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Gainesville, Florida. He is lead scientist for the Coastal Ecology and Conservation Research Group. He has both doctoral and master's degrees in marine science from the University of Miami School; a bachelor's degree from Harvard University; and 30 years experience in marine fish research. From 1985 to 1994 he was director and senior fish biologist at the Atlantic Reference Center, Huntsman Marine Science Centre in New Brunswick, Canada. He has conducted international research as a NATO Fellow in England, a U.S. National Academy Exchange Scientist to Russia, and on collaborative ocean research cruises in the Atlantic, Arctic, East Pacific, and Indian oceans, including submersible missions on the submersibles Alvin, NR-1, and Johnson Sea-Link. Dr. Sulak has published extensively on marine fish community ecology and imperiled fish species conservation. Recent deep-reef research has concentrated on explorations of fishes on deep shelf and continental slope reefs in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Objectives have been to define community structure and trophodynamics, and to determine the physical processes controlling reef fish abundance and distribution. This research provides information critical to conservation of deep coral reef habitats, and conservation of deep-reef fish species.


Jana ThomaJana Thoma
Graduate Student
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Jana Thoma is a graduate fellow at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette working under the direction of Scott France. While earning her bachelor’s degree, she became interested in conducting active research in the field of marine biology. Thoma has had the opportunity to study systematics and taxonomy of parasitic isopods and, now, deep-sea octocorals. The Bahamas cruise marks her first participation in a scientific expedition, during which several specimens were collected for her dissertation research. Her research is aimed at elucidating the evolutionary relationships of species within the octocoral families Plexauridae, Paramuriceidae, and Acanthogorgiidae.


Les E. WatlingLes E. Watling
Expedition Co-principal Investigator
University of Hawaii

A professor of zoology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and emeritus professor of oceanography at the University of Maine, Les Watling is interested in deep-sea octocorals and their symbionts. His background includes extensive work on shallow- and deep-water crustaceans, the impacts of bottom trawling on benthic communities, and benthic responses to organic enrichment from fish farms. His recent work includes descriptions of new species of deep-sea octocorals, developing global biogeographic syntheses for deep-sea benthos at bathyal depths, and geographic information system analyses of deep-sea crustaceans and octocorals.



Heather Ylitalo-WardHeather Ylitalo-Ward
Graduate Student
University of Hawaii



Deep-Sea Systems International/Oceaneering ROV Crew


Joseph CabaJoseph Caba



Toshinobu MikagawaToshinobu Mikagawa



Mike NicholsonMike Nicholson




Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

R/V F.G. Walton Smith operated by the University of MiamiResearch vessel F.G. Walton Smith
Operated by the University of Miami



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