Education and Outreach

2 PhD Student and 2 Postdoctoral Researcher Positions- Hydrothermal Activity on the Mid-Cayman Spreading Center

By Keith Cowing
November 15, 2008

Starting January 1, 2009, a new 4-year program will investigate hydrothermal systems on the Mid-Cayman Spreading Center (MCSC) under NASA’s ASTEP program – a joint collaboration between Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and Duke University Marine Laboratory (DUML). The results of the work will be used to plan astrobiological exploration of any planetary body that can host hydrothermal circulation (for example, Europa).

This project, led by Drs. Chris German & Jeff Seewald at WHOI, Dr. Max Coleman at NASA-JPL, Dr. Julie Huber at MBL and Dr. Cindy Van Dover at DUML, will include support for 4 new positions (2 PhD students and 2 Post-Doctoral researchers) as follows:

* PhD student at WHOI supervised by Drs. J. Seewald & C. German. This effort focuses on the chemical and isotopic characterization of vent fluids to constrain biological, chemical, and physical processes that regulate hot-spring chemistry. A primary objective of this work will be to identify sources and sinks for aqueous organic compounds in submarine hydrothermal environments.

* Post-Doc at JPL supervised by Dr. M. Coleman (starting January 2010). The research will involve characterization of minerals and their geochemical and stable isotope compositions to contribute to understanding the present and past energy budgets of the system. The post-doc also will be involved in the application of the integrated results to planning future NASA planetary exploration missions.

* Post-Doc at MBL supervised by Dr. J. Huber. This effort will use both molecular- and cultivation-based tools to determine the diversity, distribution and abundance of microbial communities at MCSC hydrothermal sites. The data we collect will serve as vital input for a model of energy flow through the seafloor hydrothermal system.

* PhD student at DUML supervised by Dr. C. Van Dover and colleagues. This effort focuses on the use of molecular and compound-specific isotopic markers to understand the biogeographical and ecological contexts of Cayman Rise vent communities and their contribution to the chemosynthetic carbon signal.

The project team will use WHOI’s new Hybrid-ROV, Nereus, to investigate hydrothermal systems (past and present) along Earth’s deepest mid-ocean ridge: the ~110km long ultra-slow spreading Mid-Cayman Spreading Center. Field-work is already scheduled for Sept-Oct 2009 so time is of the essence. Any candidates potentially interested in joining this exciting opportunity are encouraged to contact the respective PI’s immediately as follows:

J. Seewald: [email protected]
C. German: [email protected]
M. Coleman: [email protected]
J. Huber: [email protected]
C. Van Dover: [email protected]

Source: NAI Newsletter

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻