Microbial Stowaways: Exploring Shipwreck Microbiomes in the Deep Gulf of Mexico

Background Information

The essays below will help you to understand the goals and objectives of the mission and provide additional context and information about the places being explored and the science, tools, and technologies being used.

  • Mission Plan

    By Dr. Leila Hamdan

    R/V Point Sur at its homeport of Port of Gulfport.

    Our team of interdisciplinary scientists and educators will conduct a complete archaeological investigation of two previously surveyed sites. Our work may reveal if shipwrecks impact microbial community ecology in similar ways. Our project is equal parts marine archaeology, microbial ecology, and discovery.

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  • Archaeology is Discovery

    By Melanie Damour

    Marine organisms colonize the bow of the steel-hulled former luxury yacht Anona which sank in the northern Gulf of Mexico in 1944 in more than 4,000 feet of water.

    Archaeology, simply defined, is the science of learning about past human behavior by examining the physical remains left behind by people of the past. Archaeological remains—including sites, structures, features, and artifacts—provide tangible links to our collective human history and are glimpses into the social, economic, and cultural evolution of our species. Archaeology—at its core—is about discovery.

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  • Collaboration Across Disciplines: Microbial Ecology Meets Archaeology

    By Dr. Leila Hamdan

    Principal investors Dr. Leila Hamdan and Melanie Damour preparing push cores for sediment collection.

    Our work has revealed microorganisms are cosmopolitan and diverse and that their communities form from interaction with the physics, geology, biology, and chemistry of marine environments. In 2011, however, my research took a sharp turn when I met my first marine archaeologist, and my co-principal investigator on this expedition, Melanie Damour.

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  • Microbes, Shipwrecks, and Biogeography

    By Rachel Pugh and Dr. Justyna Hampel

    Acoustic landers used to recover biofilm recruitment experiments on the R/V Point Sur after spending four months on the Gulf of Mexico seafloor.

    While you may not be able to see them, microbes are abundant and present in all habitats on Earth—including the deep sea. Microbes are an essential component of every ecosystem, and this certainly holds true for the seafloor.

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