Gulf of Mexico Deep Sea Habitats Explorers

Sarah Bernhardt, MSSarah Bernhardt, MS
Education Specialist
NOAA, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

From the moment Sarah finished her first SCUBA dive at age 13 on the Great Barrier Reef her interests have rested in the ocean. After three summers participating in field courses and conducting research in the lagoons of the Bahamas, Sarah graduated from the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Miami University of Ohio with a bachelor’s degree focusing in tropical marine ecology in 1997. In 2000, she received her M.S. in Zoology from Texas A&M University, having spent three field seasons with the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary researching the benthic health of Stetson Bank for her thesis. Starting in 2001 she joined the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary staff as an Education Specialist, dividing her time between coordinating workshops for K-12 educators and producing informational materials about the sanctuary for the general public. Her experience as an educator includes environmental education in Ohio, SCUBA instruction in the Caribbean, and teaching biological laboratory courses to undergraduates. Although she has participated in over 20 cruises to the Flower Garden Banks, this is the first time she will participate in a cruise focusing on areas too deep for recreational SCUBA diving.

John F. Bratton, Ph.D.John F. Bratton, Ph.D.
Research Geologist
USGS, Coastal and Marine Geology Program, Woods Hole, MA

John Bratton is participating as a marine geologist on the Deep Sea Habitats Cruise, 2003. He has been working as a research geologist at the USGS office on Cape Cod since 1997. Dr. Bratton’s broad geological experience began in 1986 and has included geologic mapping in the Southwest, characterization of hazardous waste sites in New England, studies of fossil brachiopods in Utah and Nevada, and investigations of sea-level history in Maryland and North Carolina’s Outer Banks. He has taught geology and oceanography courses in California, Michigan, and Massachusetts. He is an expert in geological sampling systems and has experience with drilling and coring from trucks, as well as more exotic platforms including tracked vehicles, log skidders, barges, ships, and hovercraft. Most of his work with USGS has been on the environmental history and geochemistry of sediments and water in Atlantic estuaries, especially Chesapeake Bay. His current research is on submarine discharge of ground water on various scales, and its effects on benthic ecosystems. Dr. Bratton received his Sc.B. from Brown University in geology-chemistry and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in geology.

Sandra BrookeSandra Brooke
Postdoctoral Fellow
Oregon institute of Marine Biology

I earned my Bachelors in Biological Sciences from Essex University in England and spent a few years working in mosquito control before discovering marine biology. My Masters degree (1996) was from the Virginian Institute of Marine Biology in Virginia, and my PhD (2002) was a joint venture between the University of Southampton in England and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Florida. My dissertation research focused on the reproductive ecology of a deepwater scleractinian Oculina varicosa, which forms large fragile reefs systems at 100m depth along the shelf edge of Florida’s Atlantic coast. These reefs support a diverse invertebrate community and are essential spawning and nursery habitat for a number of commercially important fisheries species. Despite their protected status, the reefs have been badly damaged by illegal trawling and a restoration effort was initiated in 1996. Nothing was known however, about the life history of the coral. My research described gametogenic cycles, fecundity, embryogenesis and larval biology. Information on larval dispersal and recruitment rates are needed to assess potential for re-colonization of damaged areas. I am currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at the Oregon institute of Marine Biology where I am involved in a NMFS Alaska project to survey deepwater coral systems of the Aleutian Islands, and also a collaborative project with the Trondheim Biological station on Norway, working on the reproduction of coldwater corals in the Norwegian Fjords.

Peter EtnoyerPeter Etnoyer
Sponsored by Marine Conservation Biology Institute

Peter is a remote sensing specialist and marine ecologist. He graduated from Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment, where his master’s research examined the biogeography of shallow water scleractinian corals in the Philippines and the Caribbean. Since then, he has been investigating occurrences of deep sea corals in the Northeast Pacific for NOAA’s Office of Habitat Protection, and documenting benthic and pelagic ocean features for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s Baja to Bering Marine Conservation Initiative. To learn more about Marine Conservation Biology Institute (MCBI), go to exit icon.

Suzanne Fredericq, Ph.D.Suzanne Fredericq, Ph.D.
Marine Phycologist

Suzanne Fredericq is an Associate Professor in the Biology Department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She is an expert in the study of seaweeds worldwide, in particular the systematics of red algae. Her main interests lie in discovering and analyzing patterns of morphological and molecular evolution in the red algae in the context of a collections-based research program, and to correlate these molecular and morphological datasets with biogeographic hypotheses. She has been actively involved in assessing macroalgal diversity in the offshore Northwestern Gulf of Mexico Hard Bank Communities, including the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. She recently has been awarded a National Science Foundation Biodiversity Surveys and Inventories grant to study macroalgal biodiversity of the deep banks throughout the Gulf of Mexico. She has participated in numerous research diving expeditions worldwide to Antarctica, South Africa, Taiwan, the tropical western Atlantic, the Seychelles, the Azores and Madeira, and the Gulf of Mexico. Graduate students and postdocs in her laboratory are all involved in projects pertaining to macroalgal molecular systematics, development, morphology and biogeography.

Emma HickersonEmma Hickerson, MS
Research Coordinator
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Ms. Hickerson has held the position of Research Coordinator at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary since 1997. She conducted her Master’s thesis project at the Sanctuary where she studied the movements of loggerhead sea turtles using radio and satellite telemetry technology. She has focused her research efforts in the Gulf of Mexico since 1994, and has led and participated in over 50 cruises in this region. These cruises included three submersible projects with National Geographic's Sustainable Seas expedition during which she piloted a single-person submersible, DeepWorker 2000. She has coordinated recent efforts to acquire high-resolution multibeam bathymetry of the topographic features of the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Her interests and strengths include Marine Biology and Ecology, underwater photography/videography, underwater exploration and technology, science interpretation through multimedia production, and SCUBA.

Ron HillRon Hill, Ph.D.
Research Fisheries Biologist
NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Fisheries Science Center-Galveston

Ron Hill is a coral reef ecologist, studying interactions between marine fish and their habitats. His main focus is Caribbean shallow water ecosystems – the integrated coral reef - seagrass - mangrove habitats with an interest in how habitats affect abundance and distribution of key fishery species and how changes in habitat quality and quantity affect sustainable fishery populations. He has researched and published studies on fishes' migratory pathways and ontogenetic shifts in both habitat needs and ecological niches, the dynamics and community impact of settlement and recruitment of reef fishes, influence of artificial reef design on fish assemblages, fishing effects on reef fish populations and habitats, and the modeling of community structures in reef and related systems. Currently, trophic models of the Flower Gardens Banks and the Turrumote reef platform (Puerto Rico) are being constructed to compare the ecologies of the systems and explore the effects of different management strategies. The Turrumote model is being used to explore the benefits that “no-take” marine reserves offer for more effective management of fisheries and biological diversity.

Catalina MartinezCatalina Martinez
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration

Catalina Martinez joined NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration (OE) as a Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Sea Grant Fellow in 2002. Ms. Martinez completed a master’s degree in Oceanography from the University of Rhode Island's (URI) Graduate School of Oceanography in 2000, and she also received a second master’s degree in Marine Affairs from URI in 2002. She spent several years while in graduate school developing and implementing inquiry-based marine environmental programs that included field-based and classroom components. These educational programs included a ship-based oceanography program on board the URI research vessel, Cap’n Bert. Ms. Martinez has worked on fishery and other marine-related issues in various regions of the world’s oceans. Her most recent work with OE took her on research cruises to the Gulf of Alaska, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and the Caribbean in the vicinity of the Puerto Rico trench.

John McDonoughJohn McDonough
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration
Expeditions Coordinator

John McDonough received his master’s in environmental science and policy from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, in 1998, and a BS in coastal geomorphology from the University of Maryland in 1989. He served as a physical scientist with NOAA’s National Ocean Service from 1989 to 2002, where he developed data and geographic information systems related to coastal and marine environments, and applied that information to help prepare management plans for marine protected areas. From 1998 to 2002, Mr. McDonough was the project manager for large-scale undersea research expeditions using a variety of tools and techniques, including manned and unmanned submersibles. Specific efforts include the Sustainable Seas Expeditions, a joint endeavor between NOAA and the National Geographic Society to explore the system of National Marine Sanctuaries managed by NOAA’s National Ocean Service. Mr. McDonough joined the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration in January 2003 as the expeditions coordinator. He is committed to exploring and learning more about natural systems in marine and coastal areas, and providing the data and information required for effective ecosystem-based management.

Julie OlsonJulie Olson
University of Alabama

Julie Olson is an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama with a specialty in the area of microbial ecology. She completed her undergraduate work at Miami University, Oxford, OH, with a degree in microbiology prior to obtaining a PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in microbial ecology. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the Biomedical Marine Research group at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution and was introduced to, and fell in love with, deep-water marine research. She joined the faculty at the University of Alabama in 2001. Her research interests focus on characterizing the microbial communities that inhabit a variety of freshwater and marine environments. Other areas of interest include increasing the recoverability of microorganisms and examining host-microbial associations, particularly of sponges and corals. She is a Co-PI on the deep-water corals portion of this research expedition and will be examining the microbial communities associated with both living and dead Lophelia pertusa, the ambient water column, and surrounding sediments. Relatively little is known about the abundance, distribution, and ecology of deep-water corals in the Gulf of Mexico, and this expedition is designed to begin to address those questions.

Taconya PiperTaconya Piper
Web Coordinator
Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Sea Grant Fellow
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration

Taconya Piper joined NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration (OE) this year as a Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow from the University of Maryland’s Sea Grant College. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and a M.S. in Marine-Estuarine Environmental Science with a specialization in Fisheries Science also from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Her graduate research examined the reproductive physiology of American shad, Alosa sapidissima, in the Delaware and Hudson Rivers, USA. She worked with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) to provide updated fecundity estimates for the declining American shad stocks in the Delaware and Hudson Rivers. During her graduate study she was a Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) student working with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center on issues similar to her graduate research. She was also the recipient of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Graduate Research Fellowship.

Brett PhaneufBrett Phaneuf

Brett Phaneuf received a BA in 1992 from the University of Massachusetts in the department of anthropology, majoring in archaeology and classics. While studying at the University of Massachusetts he concurrently studied with Dr. Elizabeth Lyding Will at Amherst College focusing on ancient trade and ceramic analysis. In 1992 and 1994 Brett worked excavating Roman and Vandalic sites in Carthage, Tunisia and had also begun graduate school in the Nautical Archaeology Program, Texas A&M University in 1993. Since that time, he has directed numerous research projects for the Institute of Nautical Archaeology in Turkey, Morocco, Italy, France, and the United States.

In 1998, Brett returned to Texas A&M University as a doctoral student in the Department of Oceanography and as a member of the Deep-tow Research Group, conducting studies of the deep seafloor in the Gulf of Mexico, and is presently employed in that capacity. Additionally, he is a founding member of the program in Archaeological Oceanography to be launched in the fall of 2002 at Texas A&M University. Brett also founded ProMare, Inc. in 2001, which is a non-profit corporation dedicated to marine research in the deep ocean. ProMare projects include the exploration of shipwrecks, and geo-chemical processes on the ocean floor, and studies of biological diversity in the deep sea.

Brett is expected to complete his doctoral studies in 2004, and is currently the chairman of the Marine Technology Society Marine Archaeology Committee, dedicated to promoting an active dialog and partnership between industry and academia to explore the ocean for shipwrecks.

Jenefer SavageJenefer Savage
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Jenefer Savage graduated with a B.S. degree in biochemistry, doing undergraduate research with kinetic isotope effect studies. She went on to work at Scripps Research Institute where she got the opportunity to do genomic research at Texas A&M University on marine microorganism and sponge samples. The goal of this research was to develop a new, more efficient method of producing natural products isolated from these organisms for pharmaceutical use. Ideally this method would involve transforming the mRNA from specific marine samples into E-coli and using this bacterium to produce the marine metabolites. Currently she is working at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary as a research assistant. As a surfer and a biologist, she has a personal interest in exploring the world’s reef systems in hopes of gaining insight into how she can aid in its conservation. Her future plans are to move to the Hawaiian Islands to pursue her interest of researching the microbial dynamics of coral disease.

George P. SchmahlGeorge P. Schmahl
Sanctuary Manager
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

G.P. Schmahl has been the manager of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary since March 1999. Prior to that he served for eight years as the Lower Keys Regional Manager of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in Key West, Florida. As Sanctuary manager, he is involved with a broad array of Marine Protected Area management issues including research, education and resource protection. After obtaining a graduate degree in Zoology from the University of Georgia, G.P. has held a variety of positions relating to marine research, coastal management, resource planning and environmental regulation. His primary interest is the ecology and management of coral reefs and associated ecosystems, and he has specific interest and expertise in the biology and ecology of marine sponges.

William Schroeder, Ph.D.William Schroeder, Ph.D.
University of Alabama
Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Dr. Schroeder is a Professor and Coordinator of the Marine Science Program at the University of Alabama, Dauphin Island, Alabama. He has been involved in interdisciplinary oceanographic investigations for over 40 years and has conducted research along the coast, on the continental margins and in the deep water of the northern Gulf of Mexico for the past 36 years. In addition, he has participated in international research endeavors in the Bahamas, Caribbean, Gulf of Papua, Azov Sea, Australia and South Africa. He has authored and coauthored over 125 scientific publications. Currently his research activities include: 1) coupled biological-geological-physical studies of deep-water corals in the Gulf of Mexico; 2) validation of distributed marine-environment forecast systems; 3) Late Quaternary sea level and paleoceanography investigations of hardbottom sites in the northern Gulf of Mexico; 4) an integrated study of physical and biological processes along the west coast of Australia; and 5) model validation of the coupled katabatic wind, coastal ocean and ice systems in Antarctica.

Douglas C. WeaverDouglas C. Weaver
Research/GIS Specialist
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Doug is a marine biologist at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, and has been diving and conducting research in the Gulf of Mexico for 18 years. He received his undergraduate degrees in marine biology and art from Millersville University, PA, and his master’s degree in Zoology from the University of Florida. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in reef fish ecology and deep reef habitat characterization. Doug has made over 700 SCUBA dives worldwide, and has participated in 35 research cruises, including submersible dives in the Johnson Sea Link, Clelia, and Deepworker research submersibles. He is a trained Deepworker submersible pilot and an ROV pilot-in-training. His research interests include coral reef fish biology and ecology, and landscape ecology of shelf-edge hardbottom and coral reef communities. His hobbies include marine life illustration and bronze sculpture, reef aquariums, and underwater photography.

Mary WickstenMary Wicksten
Texas A&M University

Dr. Mary K. Wicksten is a professor of Biology at Texas A&M University. She is an expert on crabs, shrimp and lobsters, having described over 20 new species and three new genera. She teaches Invertebrate Zoology and graduate-level courses on marine life. As curator of Marine Invertebrates of the Texas Cooperative Wildlife Collection, she is responsible for over 47,000 specimens of marine invertebrates. An avid SCUBA diver, Dr. Wicksten has been a participant in research cruises to the Flower Garden Banks in the Gulf of Mexico as well as to locations worldwide, including the Galapagos Islands, the Gulf of California, the western Pacific and Caribbean. She is one of the chief investigators of the Deep Gulf of Mexico Benthos Project, sponsored by the U.S. Minerals Management Service, studying the bottom-dwelling fauna at depths of 200-over 3,000 m. She hopes to obtain photographs and specimens of animals never seen before in life and compare the records of these deep reef species with those of previous expeditions.