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Meet the Team

Steve W. Ross, PhDSteve W. Ross, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator and cruise Chief Scientist
Research Professor
UNC-Wilmington, Center for Marine Science

Dr. Ross is a native of North Carolina and has spent most of his career involved in marine science of the southeast region. He earned a B.S. degree in zoology from Duke University, a Master’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, and a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University. He was the Research Coordinator for the NC Coastal Reserve Program for 13 years. He is currently a research faculty at UNC-Wilmington and also has led offshore studies for the US Geological Survey. His area of specialization is ichthyology (fishes), particularly in areas of ecology and life history studies (age, growth, feeding, reproduction). He has conducted numerous, diverse projects in estuaries and offshore waters and has served as chief scientist on many cruises, including those using submersibles and ROVs. The current work of Dr. Ross and his team involves assessment of the fish communities of unique deep water habitats off the southeastern US in the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Middle Atlantic Bight. In particular, they are looking at energy flow (trophodynamics) and relationships of animals to various habitats, including coral banks, canyon systems, and rocky areas. Dr. Ross is also involved with European scientists in conducting deep-sea trans-Atlantic ecosystem studies. One ultimate goal of this research program is to provide information for these poorly known areas that will facilitate management and protection of productive and vulnerable habitats.

Sandra BrookeSandra Brooke, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator and cruise co-Chief Scientist
Associate Research Scholar
Florida State University Coastal and Marine Lab

After completing my undergraduate and M.Sc. degrees in England, I spent a few years working in mosquito control in the Cayman Islands, where I learned to dive and discovered marine ecosystems. I obtained an M.A in Marine Biology from VIMS, and a Ph.D (2002) from the Southampton Oceanography Center, UK. I have since worked on deep-water coral projects in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, Norwegian Fjords, South Atlantic Bight and Gulf of Mexico, including post oil-spill assessment. I have also worked extensively on shallow coral reefs in the Caribbean and south Florida. My recent research has focused on the biology and ecology of deep corals and characterization of deep reef ecosystems. In August 2008, I became the Director of Coral Conservation at the Marine Conservation Institute. The primary objective of the coral conservation program is to identify sensitive hard bottom habitats such as coral reefs that are ecologically valuable and advocate for their protection from damaging human activities.

Liz BairdElizabeth Denton Baird

Director of Education
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Raleigh, NC

As director of education at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Liz Baird is accustomed to sharing science information with students and teachers across the state and around the world. During this mission, she will share research activities with the public via transmissions from the ship. She will work closely with researchers and the ship’s crew to answer questions sent from students, and will assist the research team wherever she’s needed. She will also assist Art Howard with the collection of footage for a production about the mission. Ms. Baird and her staff work with students and teachers and the general public to help enhance their understanding and appreciation of the natural world. In addition to leading an annual teacher workshop to Belize, Ms. Baird founded international Take A Child Outside week which is held September 24 through 30th every year. She has a B.S. in biology from Salem College and a M.S. in science education from North Carolina State University.

JonathanJonathan Borden

Electronics Technician
U.S. Geological Survey Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
41 33.261N, 070 37.529W

As an Electronics/Mooring Technician, Jonathan is responsible for the care and feeding of oceanographic instrumentation. A member of the Sediment Transport Group at USGS, Woods Hole he is the primary tech for deployment and recovery of their moorings and landers. On this trip he will be responsible for recovery of two subsurface moorings deployed in the canyons on a previous trip and lending a hand to any other endeavors.

kellyKelly Bryant

Graduate, Marine Technology Program, Cape Fear Community College
Wilmington, NC

Having recently graduated with a degree in Marine Technology from Cape Fear Community College, Kelly is delighted to be a member of the Deepwater Canyons Team. After living and cruising aboard her sailboat for two years, she developed not only a love for the ocean, but also the science above, below, and within it! The Marine Technology Program at CFCC has opened many doors through which to explore this love, and she is still trying to figure out which one to walk through. Kelly is very excited and looking forward to utilizing the knowledge she gained in the program by assisting with CTD casts, multibeam mapping, and other data collection during this trip on the Nancy Foster!

olivia CheritonOlivia Cheriton

Research Oceanographer
Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey

Santa Cruz, CA

Olivia Cheriton is a Research Oceanographer for the US Geological Survey at the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, California. Her work focuses on how physical processes affect the transport and distributions of sediment and plankton in the coastal environment. She received a B.A. in Physics from Grinnell College (2002), and a Ph.D. (2008) in Physical Oceanography from the University of California at Santa Cruz. She just recently joined the USGS in 2012 after working as a postdoctoral researcher with a joint position between UCSC and the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, and then as a postdoctoral researcher at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in Moss Landing. On this up-coming cruise Olivia will be assisting with the retrieval of the deep-sea moorings and benthic landers that were deployed in August 2012.

Amanda DemopoulosAmanda Demopoulos, Ph.D.

Research Benthic Ecologist  US Geological Survey
Gainesville, Florida

Amanda Demopoulos is a Research Benthic Ecologist for the US Geological Survey at the Southeast Ecological Science Center in Gainesville, Florida. She received a Oceanography from the University of Washington (1996), and M.S. (2000) and Ph.D. (2004) in Biological Oceanography from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. After completing a post-doctoral fellowship at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, she joined the USGS in 2007 as a Research Ecologist and currently serves as principal investigator for the USGS DISCOVRE program and chief scientist for the USGS Mid-Atlantic Canyons project. Her overall research program examines the ecology of coastal and deep-sea environments and associated food webs. On this cruise, she will be sampling the benthos using cores deployed by the ship and ROV to examine benthic invertebrates associated with deep-sea canyons and ship wrecks. In addition, she will process water samples, plankton, invertebrates, and fish for stable isotope analysis to help elucidate the structure and function of marine canyon food webs.

Gerard DulneveldGerard Duineveld

Benthic Ecologist
Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research -NIOZ
Texel, The Netherlands

Gerard Duineveld and NIOZ colleague Furu Mienis will take part in the NF cruise to retrieve the NIOZ benthic landers that were deployed in Norfolk canyon in 2012 together with USGS moorings and UNCW benthic landers. Landers and moorings have been measuring environmental conditions (currents, turbidity, temperature) and collecting particles for one year at various positions in the canyon. The collected data will hopefully give clues about the functioning of the canyon as habitat for organisms and as conduit for particles to deeper water. The lander data will be supplemented with shipboard measurements with the CTD and with the data from chemical analysis of sediment samples collected during earlier cruises in 2012-2013.  Both researchers have a long time experience in multidisciplinary studies on structure and functioning of deep-sea floor ecosystems and in operating benthic landers in various parts of the world’s oceans including deep-sea canyons and cold water coral habitats.

mike gMichael Gray


U.S. Geological Survey

St. Petersburg, FL

Michael Gray is a microbiologist at the U.S. Geological Survey Coastal and Marine Science Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. Mike earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Eckerd College (1998), and his MS in Marine Science from the University of South Florida (2003), both in St. Petersburg, FL. In his time working at the USGS, Mike has studied the impacts of African Dust and its transportation of microbes to the Caribbean, human-induced changes in the microbiology of cave systems in Carlsbad National Park, and coral diseases in the Florida Keys.  His current research interests focus on the microbial communities of deep-water corals, using next-generation sequencing techniques to characterize and understand the structure and function of these communities.

DaciaDacia Harris

Science Educator and Adjunct Biology Faculty Member
Asheville High School, Shaw University and AB Technical Community College
Asheville, NC

Dacia began her environmental career as a curriculum intern for The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve after earning her Bachelors Degree in Ecology and Environmental Biology from UNC Asheville.  She completed that internship and earned her Masters Degree in Biology Education from Western Carolina University.  Dacia is in her 7th year of teaching high school sciences (Earth/Environmental, Chemistry and Physical Science) and college courses (Environmental Biology, Biology and Physical Science). During her tenure in the teaching profession, she has worked to increase the resources through various grant funding and community partnerships at Asheville High School as well as obtaining her NC Environmental Education Certification and National Board Certification. Dacia joins the crew to help with collection and monitoring of resources. Her goal is to return to the classroom with as much information as possible for her students.

Hogue_bio picGabriela Hogue

Collection Manager of Fishes
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Raleigh, NC
As Collections Manager of Fishes at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Gabriela curates a very large research collection of fishes. Numbering over 1.3 million specimens, the collection is among the largest and more diverse collections in the southeastern United States and amply documents the biodiversity of fishes of North Carolina and beyond. Along with collections management, Gabriela strives to educate students of various ages about the importance of research collections and the identification of fishes. While on board, she will be assisting the science team with lander retrieval and CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) measurements. She will also be helping with the education and outreach efforts, and the cruise blog. Gabriela has a B.S. and M.S. in biology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Art HowardArt Howard

Producer/Director of Photography
Raleigh, NC

For 34 years, Emmy award winning photographer and producer Art Howard has helped viewers experience life through images from 50 countries and 7 continents. A native North Carolinian, he has followed the researchers aboard 7 deep sea missions, documenting the excitement and challenges of offshore reef exploration. Art will use the latest video technology, to bring viewers as close as possible to life at sea from the surface to depths of 3000 feet, capturing both the scientists and the life they seek to understand. Howard has spent the last 11 years independently producing media for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Furu Mienis

Furu Mienis, PhD

Scientist, Marine Geologist
Postdoctoral researcher
Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), The Netherlands

At present Furu Mienis works as a postdoc at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research. Her area of specialization is sedimentology and environmental analysis. Over the last years she has studied the near-bed environmental conditions influencing cold-water coral growth. At present she studies the interaction between the water flow and the coral framework, which is until this moment poorly understood, including processes that govern particle and organic carbon supply like (re)suspension and trapping.
During her Ph.D., carried out at the NIOZ,  she studied cold-water coral habitats on the Irish margin and in the Gulf of Cadiz. Main focus of her Ph.D. was to define the near-bed environmental conditions that influence cold-water coral growth and therefor reef and mound development. Near-bed environmental variability was measured with short and long term bottom landers. Subsequently, knowledge from the recent near-bed environmental conditions was applied to understand the responses to changing environmental conditions in the past, using long sediment cores. After her Ph.D. she received a two year fellowship at a marine research institute (MARUM) in Germany. During the fellowship she mainly studied cold-water coral habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and on the North Carolina margin in close cooperation with the working group of Steve Ross.

Sarah NallSarah Nall

Student Technician
2013 Graduate of the Cape Fear Community College Marin TEchnology Program

During this cruise I will be assisting as needed.


Mike RhodeMike Rhode

Coastal and Deep-sea Fisheries Research Specialist
UNC-Wilmington, Center for Marine Science

Mike Rhode is a Coastal and Deep-sea Fisheries Research Specialist with the Center for Marine Science at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He earned a B.S. in biology from Kutztown University, and a M.S. in marine studies from the University of Delaware, College of Marine Studies. His master’s project consisted of comparing the dynamics of the larval fish assemblages at two coastal Delaware inlets. Mike also spent three years at the Marine Science Consortium in Wallops Island, VA as the equipment manager, college coordinator, and programs manager. Mike has participated in several offshore cruises and during this mission he will be chief of the night watch. His responsibilities also include assisting with gear management, data collection, fish identifications.

Colby WittColby Witt

Marine Scientist
Graduate, Marine Technology Program, Cape Fear Community College

Charleston, SC

Colby Witt graduated from Cape Fear Community College in May of 2013, with an associate degree in Marne Technology. Colby has gained all different kinds of experience while within the program, including spending 32 days offshore on an 85 foot research vessel, R/V Dan Moore, and using all kinds of equipment such as CTD’s, multibeam echo sounders, single beam echo sounders, ROV’s, ADCP’s, and other marine equipment. Colby is very interested in working offshore in the seismic research field.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2011 11:50 am

    I applaud you for your work.

  2. August 23, 2013 8:09 pm

    Dang, Kelly. Hope you get a chance to *pick* some of those brains on that boat. 🙂

    • lizbaird permalink
      August 23, 2013 8:23 pm

      Kelly has done a great job of “picking brains” on the boat. Not only have we discussed careers, science, landers, job happiness, we have also ventured into favorite foods (we know Kelly does not like mustard) and Kelly’s recent celebrations. : – )


  1. iLabs: « NC Museum of Natural Sciences Education Blog

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