University of Delaware
marine biologist Craig Cary
University of Delaware marine biologist Craig Cary really knows how to "get down." In January, he led an international team of scientists on Extreme 2000 -- the first deep-sea expedition of the century -- to underwater geysers called hydrothermal vents over a mile deep in the Sea of Cortés off Mexico.
During the 11-day expedition, Dr. Cary and his team took turns submerging to the seafloor in Alvin, the submarine that discovered the wreck of the Titanic. With Alvin's help, the scientists explored the super-hot vents and their bizarre community of organisms, from weird 4-foot tubeworms to ancient bacteria.
On Thursday, April 13, at 7:00 p.m., at the UD College of Marine Studies in Lewes, Dr. Cary will share the expedition's discoveries in a free, public lecture, "A Voyage to Life's Extreme: The Deep Sea." The presentation will kick off the third annual Ocean Currents Lecture Series, which will be held once a month at the Lewes campus through September.
Hydrothermal vents are of great interest to scientists because they are among the most extreme environments on Earth. Water as hot as 750°F, filled with a stew of toxic chemicals, rockets out of the vents. The organisms that inhabit vent sites not only thrive in these high-temperature, chemical-rich conditions, but they also can withstand the tremendous pressure from the weight of the vast ocean above them and live in total darkness.
"Vent organisms have evolved the ability to live and thrive under extremes of pressure, temperature, and chemistry," Dr. Cary says. "Their ability to do this involves special biochemical adaptations that, if understood, could be used to improve many industrial processes, for example those used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals. Already, several enzymes from vent microorganisms have been borrowed to help biomedical researchers accelerate their capabilities in the lab," he notes. "We believe there are many more important resources to be discovered -- all we need is the time to look."
Dr. Cary says he got hooked on marine science at the age of 15, thanks to a teacher with a special interest in marine biology. To share the Extreme 2000 expedition with students and the public, he worked with outreach staff at the college and with PBS station WHYY-TV, who developed a resource guide, video, and Web site for the project. Video clips, photos, and journals of the scientists' findings were uploaded daily to the Web site: www.ocean.udel.edu/deepsea. A highlight of the expedition was a conference call between Dr. Cary working on the seafloor in the submarine Alvin, and students in 11 schools in Delaware, New Jersey, and California.
The lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Room 104, Cannon Laboratory, at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes. The hour-long talk will be followed by light refreshments.
While the lecture is free and open to the public, seating is limited and reservations are required. To reserve your seat, please contact the college at (302) 645-4279.