Craig Cary is an Associate Professor with tenure at the
University of Delaware. He joined the faculty in 1994 and
has a research group that studies aspects of microbial ecology
in a number of different environments. On this cruise, his
group is examining how vent chemistry affects microbial
community structure and composition. Craig received his
B.S. from Florida Institute of Technology, his M.S. from
San Diego State University, and his Ph.D. from Scripps Institution
of Oceanography in 1989. He is 45 years old years old, and
he and his wife, Amy, have two children: Ky, who is 13 years
old, and 4-year-old Robin.
What are your main responsibilities as Chief Scientist
on this cruise?
My primary responsibility is to lead the scientific activities
on board the ship so that we can all accomplish our scientific
goals safely. I also like to make sure that the science
operations are done efficiently. Ship-time and Alvin
time are very expensive, so I feel a responsibility to use
every minute of the ship-time we have been awarded. My other
role is to be the interface between the science party, and
the ship and Alvin operations and make sure that
everyone knows what is going on. I spend a good deal of
time communicating behind the scenes with the ships
crew and the Alvin group so that all the scientific
operations run smoothly.
When you go out to sea, do you take everyone who works
in your lab with you?
I take everyone who is working in that particular field.
In my lab, we are working on a number of projects, most
of which are related to microorganisms. I have everyone
out here who is working on vents; I have left a couple of
people back in the lab. They are working on using molecular
tools to detect and identify the diatom Pfiesteria,
which is responsible for toxic algal blooms in Maryland
and Delaware coastal waters.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up, and
how did you become a marine scientist?
I moved to England when I was 10 years old, and so went
to an English school. As a kid, I was always interested
in nature, and had a microscope that I used to look at everything.
When I was 13, we had a visiting science teacher from Australia
who taught a class on marine biology reefs, tropical
oceans, etc. That gave me my first taste of the field I
would eventually follow. I got a summer job at the aquarium
in Londons Regents Park taking care of the fish
and exhibits. I loved it and would work there every chance
I got. In high school, I did a special project with a scientist
at Cambridge University on the symbiosis between clownfish
and sea anemones, and thats when I really got hooked
on marine biology!
Having decided you wanted to be a marine scientist, how
did you go about it?
I decided I wanted to go back to the U.S. and get a degree
in marine biology. This was in 1972 when there were not
many places that offered such a program. However, I ended
up going to the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne,
Florida, which had a great program with lots of hands-on
After I graduated from there, I spent a summer in Colorado
doing terrestrial ecology field work, and then ended up
getting a job as an Environmental Ecologist with Florida
Power and Light at Turkey Point, Florida. This was a nuclear
power plant that had built a 5-mile by 2.5-mile cooling
system to cool the seawater that was used to cool the reactors
before it was pumped back into the ocean. I was hired to
monitor the marine organisms in the cooling system and had
a helicopter and an airboat at my disposal. It was one of
the greatest jobs I have had in my life!
I worked there for 18 months and then won an Our World
Underwater Scholarship in 1978 that allowed me to travel
and work in different marine institutes and research centers.
[Note: the 1999 winner of this scholarship, Julie Barber,
will be on the next cruise]. This was my first introduction
to Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where I would later
do my Ph.D. However, I first went to San Diego State University
and graduated with an M.S. degree. I stayed on to continue
my work for 18 months, before beginning my Ph.D. program
in 1983. I had six wonderful years working on the biology
of hydrothermal vents just when that field was in its infancy.
After finishing, I spent several years at Oregon State University,
first as a Post-Doc and then as a Research Assistant Professor,
before joining the faculty at the University of Delaware
What do you like about your job?
I like the creative freedom that I have as a scientist
to recognize and pursue interesting problems. I like working
with scientists from different fields. I think my broad
background fits in well with multi-disciplinary work. I
also really enjoy interacting with students, and I love
teaching; I find those both very rewarding. Although I work
in a graduate studies department, I volunteered to teach
the undergraduate oceanography course for non-majors. It
is fun to try to connect with students not interested in
science and try to give them a greater appreciation of the
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I am very happy doing what I do now. I see myself possibly
getting more involved in science education and bringing
science to the public. I consider this very important.
Where do you see your future research leading you?
Technology is very important to my science. Marine microbiologists
are recognizing that technology from the biomedical arena
can be taken and applied to their science. I would love
to be part of a team that develops the methods and equipment
to be able to examine a vent environment on the microorganism
level in real time right from the submersible, and
then apply that to exploration of other planets.
What do you do in your spare time?
My passion is surfing! I also love tending my vegetable
garden and spending time with my family.
If you could start all over again, would you have chosen
the same career path?
I have been fortunate to have had a number of incredible
opportunities during my life that I would not change if
I had to do it again. I like going to sea, and I often think
about how lucky I am to be doing what I do. I have one philosophy
that I followed, and that I pass on to my students: do not
go straight from one degree to another without taking some
time off to recharge and experience something completely
new. Between my Ph.D. and Post- Doc, I worked for nine months
as a marine naturalist on a cruise ship in Indonesia. Those
types of life experiences are invaluable as you develop