Ben Grupe (Chief Scientist)
As chief scientist on the second leg of SDCoastEx, Ben will be working
to coordinate research and sampling to maximize the scientific objectives
accomplished over the seven-day cruise. This includes preparing a balanced
cruise sampling plan, deciding when the Melville goes to what stations, and
communicating with the captain and resident technicians so that everyone is on
the same page. A fifth-year Ph.D. student, this is Ben’s eleventh research
cruise, but first opportunity to lead as the chief scientist.
Ben has been in Lisa Levin’s lab in the Biological Oceanography program since 2008 and will finish his Ph.D. sometime in 2013. Ben is interested in the ecology of chemosynthetic ecosystems, and has previously researched seep communities off Costa Rica and Oregon. At
these sites, he has deployed experimental substrates to see how different
aspect of the environment affect the colonizing macrofauna (animals larger than
0.3 mm). He has also used stable isotopes to track food web relationships
between different kinds of worms, crabs, snails, limpets, and bacteria that are
common at methane seeps.
Ben's science goals on this cruise are mainly related to the seep we discovered 20 miles off San Diego's coastline in July 2012. We will revisit the site to collect sediment cores and describe the geochemistry, microbiology, and invertebrate communities of this particular seep, to place the environment into context with others on the U.S. west coast. We also hope to use the ROV to explore for new methane seeps. We hope that seeps found near San Diego might become long-term research sites, allowing Scripps researchers to venture into these exciting deep-sea ecosystems more easily than in the past.
While Ben is away at a conference in New Zealand, Christina will be the stand-in Chief Scientist for the first leg of the journey. She
is a Ph.D. student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and has participated
in many research cruises that have been as far south as Chile and as warm as
Christina’s personal research goals on the cruise are to assess biological
community responses of animals living within the sediment on the seafloor to
sharp changes in oxygen and carbon dioxide. To do this she will use
sediment cores collected with the multicore along a transect through the Oxygen
Minimum Zone to investigate macrofaunal (a.k.a animals less than 300 µm) abundance,
diversity, biomass and taxonomic composition in relation to the oxygen and
carbon dioxide environment. This research will contribute to a global dataset
of macrofaunal patterns across OMZs and support her dissertation research that
focuses on implications of low oxygen and high CO2 for marine
Alexis will be working with the
Seep Team to locate cold seeps near San Diego using the ROV and collect samples
at these sites.
Single-celled eukaryotes, also known as protists, are the
predecessors to multicellular plants and animals. Animal-like (heterotrophic)
protists are important grazers and nutrient recyclers in marine ecosystems;
however, we know very little about the distribution, diversity or trophic roles
of these protists below the sunlit surface of the ocean. Chemosynthetic ecosystems
such as methane seeps are “hot spots” of life on the seafloor and provide a
unique environment to study the extent to which protists are adapted to live
and interact with other organisms under extreme conditions – dark, low oxygen,
high concentrations of toxic chemicals. The overall goal of her dissertation is
to provide an understanding of the ecology of heterotrophic protists within
methane seep ecosystems. She is interested in examining the distribution and
diversity of heterotrophic protists in relation to geochemical (e.g., methane
and sulfide concentrations) and biological variables (e.g., prey availability)
within methane seep ecosystems. Samples collected during the San Diego Coastal
Expedition cruise will enable her to compare protistan communities collected from
San Diego seeps with those she has collected from Oregon seeps. Because these
seeps exist at different depths and under different oxygen concentrations, she
can gain further insight into how variations in chemical (e.g., oxygen
concentrations) and physical (e.g., depth) factors influence the composition
and diversity of seep protists.
SungHyun will be collecting water samples
and data from CTD casts, ADCP, and all the meteorological measurements during the cruise.
Better understanding of spatiotemporal variability in hydrography
is particularly important for addressing underlying mechanisms that drive
changes in biogeochemical parameters like DO, pH, DIC, etc. The question
Sungyun will answer on the cruise is: how is the spatiotemporal structure of physical
parameters characterized and associated with changes in biogeochemical parameters on the San Diego continental
margin? He will use data collected from CTD casts to examine spatial structure
and the relationship with biogeochemical parameters. Combined with time series
data collected at the Del Mar and other moorings, physical processes at
multiple scales affecting the change in biogeochemistry will be addressed.
These processes include, but are not limited to, internal waves/tides, sea/land
breeze-driven oscillations, temporal upwelling and relaxation, seasonal upwelling,
interannual climate events (El Niño/La Niña), and decadal trends.
Mike will lead research using
the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) for biological surveys along the seafloor of
San Diego’s continental shelf.
As the climate changes, the environment of
Southern California Current System, including the coastal waters of San Diego, may
be becoming less suitable for coastal dwelling organisms including those that
we eat (fished species). More acidic,
warmer seawater that holds less oxygen (ocean acidification, warming,
deoxygenation, respectively) poses a triple threat for ALL organisms that live
here. The susceptibility of most species
to these factors is unknown BUT it is urgently
needed to ensure that policies protect valuable natural resources, including
those valued economically. As a starting
point, Mike will address his research questions to gather evidence for species
that inhabit areas that are exposed to these threats AND that are important
economically and ecologically. Initially
Mike will focus work on the market squid, Doryteuthis
opalescens, and the spot prawn, Pandalus
platycerous. Both species are
valuable commercial fishery species and are known to dwell on the seafloor. His research questions include: What are the vertical distributions of the
market squid and the spot prawn in relation to acidic, deoxygenated seawater (e.g.
Oxygen Minimum Shoaling (OMZ))? Does
this relationship change seasonally?
Yui will be working with the CTD team to measure pH in the water column. In addition, he will field test the “Deep-Sea Durafet”, a novel pH sensor that can make continuous measurements up to 3000m.
Yui is interested in advancing autonomous chemical sensor technology for ocean monitoring applications. Autonomous sensors are devices that run on internal power for extended periods of time without a human operator. He has been heavily involved in the development of the SeaFET and SeapHOx, (chemical sensor packages that measure pH (and dissolved oxygen in the case for the SeapHOx) for months) and over 90 of them have been deployed worldwide. He has helped deployments of the SeapHOx in the kelp forests in La Jolla, moorings off the coast of California, Maui, Palmyra, and the Yucatan peninsula.
John will be collecting bottle samples from CTD casts for
oxygen andcalcium measurements. He is also responsible for earning his
sea legs, as this is the second adventure at sea for John and first as an SIO
John is a first year graduate student interested in
developing new ways of measuring the chemical composition of the ocean
including the carbonate system, pH, and nutrients. For instance, this cruise will be
the first application of a calcium titration system developed earlier this year.
Chemical concentrations and changes in space and time provide information about
physical, chemical, and biological dynamics in a salty soup of atoms. Cellular
respiration requires an electron acceptor, molecular oxygen in aerobic
metabolism, to break down organics and produce energy. Many marine organisms form
shells and skeletons by combining calcium and carbonate ions. The amount and quality
of information that describes the ocean system is ultimately dependent on
measurement methods and instrumentation.
As a part of the OMZ team, Kelley will be collecting core
sediment samples using the multicorer. Kelley has participated in a number of
field trips to collect sediment samples from diving depths, but the San Diego
Coastal Expedition will be her very first cruise.
Kelley is a third year graduate student in Paul Jensen’s
lab. She studies a group of bacteria called actinomycetes that live in
terrestrial soils and marine sediments. Actinomycetes are an unusual group of
bacteria because they dedicate a large amount of energy to the production of
complex small molecules. These molecules come in an incredible diversity of
structures that are sometimes used as antibiotics, anti-cancer agents, or as a
variety of other pharmaceuticals. Although these small molecules are often
useful to humans, no one knows why they are useful to the bacteria that make
them. For example, they may be acting as warfare agents to kill competitors, or
as a part of the chemical language that bacteria use to communicate, or used to
survive periods of low oxygen. Although actinomycetes have been found in marine
sediments, these environments can vary greatly, and no one knows which sediment
environments they prefer. To answer some of these questions, during the cruise
Kelley will be looking to see which environmental conditions in the sediments
best support actinomycete growth, and in which environmental conditions
actinomycetes produce some of these small molecules. In addition, because this
cruise will allow her to search sediments deeper than what is commonly sampled
for actinomycetes, she hopes to find previously uncultured groups of
actinomycetes that will be screened for the production of new pharmaceutically
Amanda will be using the ROV to
collect visual data on the distributions of animals living in mesopelagic (200-1000 m) depth. These data will be correlated with environmental data collected by the CTD team.
In all of the world’s oceans, there exists a deep
aggregation of unusual fishes, crustaceans and gelatinous organisms that live
suspended in the water column. This layer is often referred to as the “deep
scattering layer (DSL),” because it was first revealed by the strong scattering
of sound reflected from active sonar systems. Many of the DSL animals are
essential prey to organisms with commercial and conservation interest, such as
tunas, sharks and whales, yet little is known about their population dynamics
and susceptibility to anthropogenic changes to the oceanic environment. Amanda's advisor, Dr. J. Anthony Koslow, recently initiated a midwater sampling
program in the waters offshore of San Diego. Our lab uses trawl nets and active
acoustics to sample the animals. The trawl nets are efficient at capturing many
of the fishes and crustaceans, however many fragile gelatinous organisms are
destroyed in the nets. On the SDCE cruises, Amanda will use the ROV to get a
complete picture of the finescale vertical structure of the midwater ecosystem
at the boundary of the continental margin. Along with measurements of
environmental variables, the visual surveys will provide her with data to help
understand how environmental factors shape the vertical habitat space for deep
open ocean animals. Further, patterns discerned through data collected on this
cruise will contribute to our understanding of how the predicted deoxygenation,
acidification and warming may affect open ocean ecosystems.
Kirk will investigate the relative
abundance and distribution of benthic megafauna and demersal fishes on the continental shelf and slope. He will co-lead the Shelf team with Mike Navarro during otter trawl sampling and on ROV benthic operations.
Kirk is a PhD student in Dr. Lisa Levin's lab at Scripps. The ocean interior is experiencing a rapid decrease in dissolved oxygen and these oxygen limited zones are expanding to shallower depths. What does this mean for benthic taxa and populations that conduct aerobic metabolism? Does the oxygen concentration in the surrounding water limit certain species distributions? If so, which species and at what oxygen concentration? Kirk’s
research questions are motivated by the need to consider these metabolic thresholds, in addition to CO2 stress and pH stress, in structuring low oxygen communities, especially as OMZs expand in future decades.
As a member of the Methane Seeps Team, Jillian will be assisting with the collection, processing, and interpretation of multibeam bathymetry and sub-bottom sonar data. With these data, Jillian will help identify features on the seafloor that may indicate the presence of methane seeps.
Jillian is a Ph.D. student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography studying tectonic and sedimentary processes, and their impact on biological communities. In addition to helping find methane seeps, the geophysical data collected during the cruise will be used by Jillian for her research on the tectonics of the California Continental Borderlands region. This offshore region has a complex tectonic history, but the slip rates and recency of faulting on offshore faults remain poorly understood. This research will help to understand better the tectonic framework offshore San Diego, and to assess the geohazard posed by offshore faults on the densely populated San Diego region.
As faculty mentor for this cruise, Levin
will be available to all students for consultation on matters ranging from
event scheduling and sample processing to cruise reporting. She will try to
help students acquire skills needed for cruise leadership, assist with
OMZ sampling, provide seep expertise, and mentor her grad students to optimize
their cruise outcomes.
A professor at Scripps Institution of
Oceanography (SIO), Lisa Levin studies the animals on the deep and shallow seafloor.
Levin received her PhD from SIO, conducted postdoctoral studies at Woods
Hole Oceanographic Institution, taught for nine years at North Carolina State
University, and returned to SIO as a faculty member in 1992. Much of Levin’s
deep-sea research focuses on the structure and function of continental margin
ecosystems , including habitats such as methane seeps and oxygen minimum
zones. She is currently addressing climate change consequences for deep-sea
systems and promoting stewardship of the deep ocean. Levin has been
active in the Census of Marine Life Continental Margin Ecosystems
(COMARGE) and Chemosynthetic Ecosystem Science (ChEss) programs and the
international follow on SYNDEEP and INDEEP programs. She has participated in
more than 35 cruises in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans, many as
chief scientist. Back at Scripps, she also investigates aspects of
populations connectivity, ocean acidification and deoxygenation, and wetland
ecology and restoration.
Carlos Neira as part of the OMZ team will be collecting sediment
samples from a multicorer to study the metazoan meiofauna of the OMZ and other
settings such as methane seeps.
Carlos, an associate project scientist at Levin Lab, is interested
in the continental margin meiofauna, primarily those of the eastern Pacific
OMZs. Present knowledge of meiofaunal
ecology along the EP OMZ is not commensurate with the crucial role this group
plays in the benthic ecosystem. As
oceanic oxygen levels decline globally and OMZs expand, meiofauna are likely to
displace macro- and megafauna, with likely consequences for essential ecosystem
functions. The set of samples collected during this cruise together with
meiofaunal samples previously collected along the eastern Pacific margin (Chile
to Oregon) will be used to examine in what extent low oxygen/high organic
matter conditions within the OMZs select for specific meiofaunal patterns of
abundance, taxonomic composition, diversity, biomass, feeding modes. The
research will fill a major gap in the knowledge of meiofaunal ecology and
contribute to a better understanding of the influence of hypoxia thresholds on
marine biodiversity, of growing importance in the face of current OMZ expansion
due to climate change.
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