Where are you from, and what is your role in Extreme 2004?
am a professor of marine biology
at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.
I was invited to participate on this cruise together with Steffi
Markert, a Ph.D. student from Greifswald/Germany. My main interest
on this cruise is to characterize the bacterial symbionts from
the tubeworm Riftia pachyptila and to investigate the changes
they undergo in different environments.
What questions are you trying to answer and why?
The bacterial symbionts of the tubeworm Riftia pachyptila provide
the worm with most or all of its nutritional needs. The host does not have
a digestive system as a result and is, therefore, entirely dependent on
the symbionts. Since the symbionts cannot be extracted and cultured under
controlled conditions, we have to characterize them using biochemical and
molecular methods. In an ongoing collaboration with Shellie Bench, Bob Feldman,
and others we are sequencing and analyzing the genome of the symbiont. It
appears that there is more than one symbiont present in the worm. However,
the symbionts are closely related. In parallel, the proteome of the symbionts
is characterized in collaboration with a group from Greifswald/Germany.
We hope to be able to obtain more samples of symbionts from tubeworms from
different habitats to extend the analysis of the proteome.
What is your background, and what lured you into marine science/education?
first exposure to research in the marine environment was as
a biology student at the University of Muenster/Germany. We
had excursions to the intertidal flats off the coast of northern
Germany and investigated the life in this area. On one of these
excursions, I decided to research for my diploma thesis investigating
the physiological and biochemical adaptations to temporary
anaerobiosis (= temporary life without oxygen) of a polychaete
worm living in the mud of the flats. I continued with this
topic through my Ph.D. thesis in Germany. After my thesis,
I moved to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography as a postdoc,
initially for one year only. Shortly after my arrival, the
first biological expedition to the hydrothermal vents ended
here in San Diego, and we were given frozen samples of a variety
of vent animals including the tubeworms. Since then, I have
been working with vent animals and other organisms with chemoautotrophic
bacterial symbionts. The results of this research allowed me
to stay as a faculty member at Scripps. I have participated
on numerous cruises to hydrothermal vents in the Pacific and
Atlantic during the past 20 years, have been chief scientist
on some, have been on expeditions investigating symbionts on
worms from shallow - water
tropical areas, and have looked for animals with symbionts