Where are you from, and what is your role in Extreme 2002?
I am a graduate student at the University of Delaware working with Dr. Eric Wommack. This is my first hydrothermal vent cruise and I will be investigating viral communities in the water and chimneys associated with the hydrothermal vents. I will be using a device called a LVWS (Large Volume Water Sampler), which will collect 100 liters (over 26 gallons) of ocean water very close to the vents. My lab partner, Kurt Williamson, and I will then concentrate all of the viruses in that 100 liters down to 250 milliliters (slightly more than 1 cup) in order to perform microscopy and molecular experiments.
What questions are you trying to answer and why?
We are collecting and concentrating viruses in order to better characterize the viral community at hydrothermal vents. We want to study the abundance, morphology (what they look like), genetic diversity, and the importance of their ecological role in the vent environment.
Why is this research important? What are the benefits?
Viruses are highly abundant in marine waters. Previous research has discovered that these small particles are an important part of controlling the marine bacterial communities and their functions as the great nutrient recyclers. By studying the smallest component of the recycling system, we can better understand the dynamics between viruses and bacteria.
What's your background and what lured you into marine science/education?
I saw the ocean for the first time when I was 18 years old and fell in love immediately. I received my B.S. and M.S. at Michigan State University in Dr. James Tiedje's lab studying environmental bacteria and bioremediation. On a class-associated research trip to the Gulf of Mexico, I decided to pursue marine microbial ecology. I am now a Ph.D. student at the University of Delaware studying viruses in marine and estuarine environments. I thoroughly enjoy my work and am thankful for having a wonderful advisor, Dr. Eric Wommack. I have learned a great deal from him in my first year and am looking forward to the continued experiences and education. I am also serving the nation as an officer in the United States Naval Reserve, although this cruise will be the largest ship I've ever been aboard.