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Meet the Team 2012

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
Research Associate
Oregon Institute of Marine Biology

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.

Megan ChesserMegan Chesser

Director of Summer Camps
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Raleigh, NC

Megan is looking forward to gaining some ‘sea-legs’ on her first extended voyage out to sea! Growing up in NC, Megan first became interested in aquatic environments when she began research with tiger salamanders while earning her B.S. in Zoology from NC State University. Her interest in individual pattern recognition and citizen science eventually led her north to study and photograph a large population of marbled salamanders in a series of vernal pools in Massachusetts. She continued to donate blood to the local mosquito populations while earning her M.S. in Wildlife conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (2011). Megan joined the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in 2011 and lives her passion of communicating the wonders of science to the general public by giving daily live animal presentations and developing fun and exciting summer camps for pre-K–8th graders. Like Ms. Baird and Dr. Hanneman, she will work closely with researchers and the ship’s crew to answer blog questions sent from students and the public. Megan is most excited about seeing and learning about the inhabitants in a new marine environment, and BONUS—no mosquitoes!

Terry ConnellTheresia Connell

Education Liason
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Theresia Connell is the Education Director with Interactive Planet assisting NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research web team in the development of this website and its products. She came on board with NOAA in 2001 through the Center of Coastal Monitoring and Assessment and has worked on many projects for NOAA over the last decade. She is currently finishing her B.S. in Elementary Education and working on an education enrichment program for elementary schools using NOAA’s ocean science. Theresia is excited to serve on the Leg III of this expedition, working with the scientists and crew to document the research with logs, photos and videos—bringing the excitement of ocean science and exploration to the public!

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.

Scott FranceScott C. France, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Dr. France began college in Montreal, Canada (where he was born and raised) as a fine arts major, but was attracted to a career in marine biology when he took an elective course in oceanography and learned about the discovery of deep-sea hydrothermal vents. With a new-found fascination for the deep sea, he immediately switched majors, and subsequently earned a Ph.D. at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California – San Diego, studying the evolution of deep-sea invertebrates. He has since visited the deep-ocean floor of the Mariana basin, Hawaii, Galapagos, Alaska, North Atlantic seamounts and the Bahamas. He has analyzed genetic variation of deep-sea invertebrates from a variety of habitats, including hydrothermal vents, abyssal plains, seamounts, and trenches. Dr. France’s current research focuses on patterns of genetic variation in deep-sea octocorals. You can learn more at his lab Web site.

Eric HannemanEric Hanneman, Ph.D.

Coordinator of Fish and Invertebrates
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Eric grew up in the Midwest and went to school in Chicago before moving to Oregon and earning a Ph.D. in Developmental Neurobiology. After several postdoctoral fellowships he chose a different path and managed a medical practice while raising two children. He has long been active in the American Cichlid Association and the tropical fish hobby, traveling to Lake Tanganyika, Mexico, and throughout Central America collecting fish. In 2005 he opened a tropical fish store and managed it for 5 years before moving to North Carolina to become the Curator of Aquatics.

He was recently promoted to Coordinator of Fish and Invertebrates, and manages a staff of three, and 14 exhibits including a 10,000 gallon aquarium featuring fishes found on the hardbottom habitat. He is currently on the Board of Trustees of the American Cichlid Association and writes a bimonthly column, Cichlid World, for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine. His main interests are biogeography, evolution, and conservation.

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.

Jack IrionJack B. Irion, Ph.D.

Marine Archaeologist
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)

Dr. Irion received his Ph.D. from The University of Texas in 1990 and has 40 years of experience in underwater archaeology, participating in or directing archaeological expeditions in England, Mexico, Belize, Turkey, Italy, Puerto Rico, and throughout the United States.  Prior to joining BOEM in 1995, Jack served as a private consulting marine archaeologist to both industry and government agencies.  His work has resulted in the discovery and documentation of numerous historic sites and shipwrecks.  Since joining BOEM, Jack has directed the documentation of several historic shipwrecks on the Outer Continental Shelf.  These have included the Civil War gunboat U.S.S. Hatteras and the 19th century coastal steamers New York and Josephine, the latter of which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.  Most recently, Jack has developed and participated in deepwater archaeological investigations of vessel casualties of World War II and the archaeological investigation and recovery of an early 19th century shipwreck in over 4,000 feet of water.

Chris KelloggChristina A. Kellogg, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator – Microbiology
Research Microbiologist
U.S. Geological Survey, St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center

Dr. Kellogg grew up on a charter boat in the U.S. Virgin Islands with the Caribbean Sea as her backyard, so it was no wonder she pursued a career in marine biology.  She runs an environmental microbiology laboratory at the U.S. Geological Survey currently specializing in coral-associated microbes.  Her research on tropical corals has taken her to the Florida Keys, Caribbean, Hawaii, and American Samoa, leading her friends to say that she specializes in ‘resort microbiology.’  Chris has been working in deepwater coral ecosystems since 2004 and considers herself extremely lucky to have had the privilege of visiting them personally using the Delta and Johnson-Sea-Link submersibles.  On this cruise she will be collecting a variety of coldwater corals to look at their associated microbes and also joining ‘Team Mud’ to look at the microbial communities in deep-sea sediments.  While processing samples she prefers to listen to 80’s big hair bands, Bowling for Soup, and Mary Prankster.  To learn more please visit her professional page or follow her personal Twitter feed @DrChrisKellogg.

Rod Mather, Ph.D.

Marine Archaeologist
Professor of History and Underwater Archaeology
University of Rhode Island

Rod Mather is the director of the archaeology and anthropology graduate program at the University of Rhode Island, and the adviser of the university’s underwater archaeology undergraduate program. He received his bachelor of arts from Leeds University in 1986, his master of arts from East Carolina University in 1990, and his doctorate from New College in Oxford in 1996. Dr. Mather will direct the archaeological aspects of the Atlantic Deepwater Canyons project and will focus his attention on the discovery, identification and assessment of submerged historic and pre-contact sites.

Jennie McClain-CountsJennifer McClain-Counts

Biological technician
U.S. Geological Survey
Gainesville, FL

Jennifer McClain-Counts is a biological technician at U.S. Geological Survey at the Southeast Ecological Science Center in Gainesville, FL. Jennie received her B.S. degree in Marine Biology (2006) and her M.S. degree in Marine Science (2010) from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her graduate work examined the trophic relationship of midwater fishes over cold seeps in the Gulf of Mexico. Before joining USGS in 2011, Jennie worked with Dr. Steve Ross, participating in multiple research cruises and working on projects such as the ecology of Eumunida picta, a squat lobster associated with Lophelia pertusa,and the community structure of midwater fishes in the Gulf of Mexico. She is particularly interested in the use of stable isotopes to elicit trophic relationships and currently works with Dr. Amanda Demopoulos (USGS) to examine trophic relationships and community structure of marine fauna collected in various habitats, such as wetlands, offshore wrecks and deep-sea corals.

Mike MckeeMike McKee

Research Associate and Technician
Northeast Underwater Research Technology and Education Center (NURTEC)  University of Connecticut

Mike McKee is a Research Associate and Technician with the Northeast Underwater Research Technology and Education Center (NURTEC) at the University of Connecticut. Mike received his MS in Oceanography from the University of Connecticut in 2001 with a focus in marine ecology and has since taken on many roles at NURTEC involving geographic information systems (GIS), education and outreach, multimedia and data management, web development, seafloor mapping, and working with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). While serving on NURTEC’s ROV team at sea, Mike’s responsibilities include integrated navigation systems, sample collection, vehicle maintenance and deck operations.  He enjoys every opportunity to utilize advanced ocean technologies, work closely with scientists, and to better enable ocean research and exploration.

Kirstin Meyer

Oregon Institute of Marine Biology

Kirstin Meyer just started as a graduate student at the OIMB in the fall of 2012.  Born in Michigan, she earned her B.S. in Zoology from Northern Michigan University in 2011 and then studied for a year in northern Germany at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, funded by a Fulbright Study-Research grant.  Kirstin’s research interest lies in benthic deep-sea invertebrates, specifically how the community of invertebrates is affected by the availability of hard substrate.  She used a deep-sea camera system to study the benthic community in Germany and will be collecting samples and recording video of animals that inhabit shipwrecks on this cruise.

Furu MienisFuru Mienis, Ph.D.

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.

Andy NillerAndy Miller

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

Andy Miller is a Coastal and Deep-sea Fisheries Research Technician with the Center for Marine Science at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Wilmington.  He earned a B.S. and M.S. in marine biology from UNC Wilmington.  His undergraduate honor’s project investigated the impact of elevated seawater temperatures on the larvae of reef-building corals.  For his master’s thesis he examined the ability of a Caribbean coral reef fish to learn avoid unpalatable prey using visual cues alone.  Andy has spent time conducting field work in Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and off the coast of North Carolina.  His responsibilities for this cruise will include assisting with gear management, data collection, fish identifications.

Cheryl MorrisonCheryl Morrison, Ph.D.

Scientist, Geneticist
USGS Leetown Science Center, West Virginia

Dr. Morrison is a geneticist at the USGS Leetown Science Center. She received her bachelor of science in marine biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 1991, and her Ph.D. from Florida State University in Biological Sciences (1997). Dr. Morrison has always loved the ocean, from tide pools in the northeastern US to tropical coral reefs. She has been studying deep coral ecosystems for ten years in the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic Bight. Her current research involves utilizing genetic techniques to estimate connectivity, or dispersal of juvenile coral larvae, between geographically separated populations. Estimates of connectivity give managers information about sensitivity of populations since highly connected populations are likely to be re-populated following damage. During the mission she will be collecting corals and squat lobster associates that will be taken back to the lab for analysis.

Nancy ProutyNancy Grumet Prouty, Ph.D.

Scientist, paleoclimate/oceanography
USGS Oceanographer

Nancy Prouty is an oceanographer at the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, CA.  She received her Ph.D. at Stanford University in the Oceans Programs in 2004 after earning a M.S. at the University of New Hampshire. Her scientific background includes atmospheric chemistry, oceanography, and climate change.  Using geochemical signals preserved in “natural recorders” (e.g., ice cores and coral records) of climate variability, Nancy has focused her research on enhancing our understanding of climate variability on human-relevant timescales and impact of human activities on the climate.  Her training includes a postdoctoral position at the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Ocean Research (CICOR), a NOAA Cooperative Institute at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).  She joined the U. S. Geological Survey in 2006 as a Mendenhall Fellow as part of the Ridge-to-Reef studies in Hawaii.  She is now working as a research oceanographer as part of the Coral Reef Project, and is a member of the Diversity, Systematics, and Connectivity of Vulnerable Reef Ecosystems (DISCOVRE) team. Nancy’s geochemical analytical research at the USGS has focused on the effects of understanding both present and past effects of climate changes on coral reef ecosystems, both shallow water and deep-cold water coral ecosystems.

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.

Brendan RoarkBrendan Roark, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Geography and the Ocean Drilling and Sustainable Earth Sciences (ODASES) at Texas A&M University

Dr. Brendan Roark is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and the Ocean Drilling and Sustainable Earth Sciences (ODASES) at Texas A&M University. He earned his B.A. degree of the University of Colorado, his M.S. and Ph.D. at the University California, Berkeley and did Post-doctoral training at Stanford University. Brendan is a paleoceanographer whose research emphasis is in stable isotope biogeochemistry, trace metal analyses, and geochronology using radiocarbon and U/Th dating methods to study ocean and climate variability over the last 50,000 years. He has been doing research on reconstructing past oceanographic conditions using biogeochemical signals measured in the skeleton’s of deep-sea corals for more than ten years working with both submersibles and ROVs in the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. One of the more interesting outcomes of this research is that we have demonstrated that some species of deep-sea corals can be extremely long lived; 2700 and 4200 years for Gerardia sp. and Leiopathes sp. respectively, and thus may be unique archives of intermediate ocean water variability.

Craig RobersonCraig Robertson M.Sc.

Doctoral Student
School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University

Craig is working towards his Ph.D. in deep-sea ecology in at Bangor University. His Ph.D. focuses on ecosystem functioning in submarine canyons, involving a complete appraisal of the hydrodynamic regime, sediment flux and food supply influencing the benthic habitats and fauna found at these biodiversity hotspots. Prior to his Master of Science degree in Marine Environmental Protection, he participated in EU cold-water coral reef projects in the North Atlantic, specifically looking at the ecology of Lophelia pertusa and associated microbial communities. He has considerable experience in macro-faunal analysis having worked for several years as a benthic taxonomist in commercial marine science, specialising in fauna from around the North Atlantic and the Middle East. He will be working on benthic fauna with Dr Amanda Demopoulos and benthic landers with the NIOZ team.

Esprit Saucier-HeestandEsprit Heestand Saucier

Ph.D. Student
Department of Biology
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Esprit Heestand Saucier received her BA in Zoology in 2006 and her masters in 2009 at The Ohio State University under Dr. Meg Daly.  Currently, Esprit is a Ph.D. student and Board of Regent Fellow at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette under Dr. Scott France.  Her current research focuses on using genetics and morphology to examine the phylogenetic relationships within the deep-sea bamboo corals, Keratoisidinae and describing new genera and species that have been discovered while working on the subfamily in collaboration with Scott France and Les Watling.  She is also interested in the classification and distribution of cnidae within the deep-sea bamboo corals, the biogeographic distribution of bamboo corals in the coral triangle, and genetically assessing population- and species-level differences using the deep-sea bamboo coral Acanella as a model.

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