We have been working on designs to measure temperatures in vents
and to then collect the vent structure for study of the mineral
and microbe distribution within the structure. I will help with
the vent sampling and mineralogical and geochemical analysis on
board and after return to our labs at Arizona State.
What questions are you trying to answer and why?
Observations in many vent fields have shown a variety of types
of vents and how they change in shape as they grow. The different
types of vents imply that the geochemical environment varies from
vent to vent, and changes in individual vents as they grow. We want
to see if those changes make a difference in the kind of microbes
that first colonize the vent, and how the kinds of microbes change
as the vents grow. We hope to use these observations to design laboratory
systems to allow us to further explore these questions.
Why is this research important? What are the benefits?
Hydrothermal vents on the seafloor may have existed since the early
days of Earths history, and vent microbes are thought to be
among the earliest forms of life. Studying the changes in microbial
communities in growing vents may give us a window into the early
evolution of life in these vent systems. Also, the better we understand
how the biologic communities in present-day vents relate to, and
interact with the geochemical environment helps us to understand
how this important seafloor habitat influences the overall geochemical
balance in the Earth.
Whats your educational background and what lured you into
I have a B.S. in geology from the University of Oregon and a Ph.D.
in Geochemistry from Penn State. Ive since taught in the Dept.
of Geological Sciences and the Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry
at Arizona State University. Ive been intrigued with seafloor
hydrothermal systems since they were discovered, but only thought
of applying my background in experimental simulations of high pressure
and temperature conditions to those systems a few years ago. Now
Im totally hooked on studying the interface between biology
and geology on the seafloor.