Where are you from, and what is your role in Extreme 2003?
I am a graduate student in Dr. Cary's lab at the University of Delaware College of Marine Studies and this will be my third hydrothermal vent cruise aboard the Atlantis. My major role on this cruise will be assisting the Alvin group with setup and configuration of equipment on the submersible's basket for use on the seafloor. I will also be assisting Dr. Cary's research group with a variety of molecular analyses on the microbes associated with the Alvinella (Pompeii) worms and vent chimneys.
What questions are you trying to answer and why?
We are attempting to gain a more thorough understanding of the microbial community composition and the chemical environment present at hydrothermal vents. Understanding the biological and chemical interactions of these extreme environments may provide evidence for the evolution of early biological systems.
Why is this research important? What are the benefits?
This research will provide for a better understanding of the diversity of life present in the ocean and on the planet. It will expand our knowledge of the temperature and chemical limitations of life and the mechanisms developed by organisms to thrive under such conditions. The isolation of enzymes from vent organisms may prove useful in industrial and biomedical procedures. Vent environments also have implications in theories of the evolution of life on this planet and the possibility of life on other planets.
Whats your educational background, and what lured you into marine research?
I came to the University of Delaware College of Marine studies in 2000 from Bermuda where I worked as a technician for the Bermuda Atantic Time Series project. I have a B.S. in marine science and biology from the University of Georgia. Through my undergraduate studies and past research experience, I developed a strong interest in marine microbiology and their interactions within the marine environment.