Expedition Coordinator - NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
Nicolás is an oceanographer and a member of NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) science division and has been the Ocean Exploration grants program manager since 2005. In 2004, Nicolás was awarded the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, and he served as an executive fellow staffing to NOAA's Science Advisory Board. Nicolás received his BSc in chemistry and MSc in earth sciences from the University of Ottawa, and his PhD in chemical oceanography from Texas A&M University, where he researched the chemical characterization of natural products from microbes and phytoplankton in the Gulf of Mexico. Nicolás has been scuba diving since 1993, is a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Scuba Instructor and is a closed-circuit rebreather (CCR) Trimix full-cave diver. Nicolás served on the NOAA Diving Control and Safety Board for a brief period of time and is the resident open-circuit/technical and closed-circuit diving expert within OER and is both an American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) diver as well as a NOAA scientific diver.
Marine Engineering Geophysicist - Geological Survey of Canada
Steve Blasco received his Honours Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Engineering Geophysics from Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, in 1972. For the past 25 years he has been employed as a marine engineering geophysicist with the Geological Survey of Canada, at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Mr. Blasco's research focuses on marine environmental and engineering geology studies. Seafloor and lakebed geological investigations are related to offshore oil and gas exploration in the Canadian Arctic and environmental problems in the Arctic and Great Lakes. Mr. Blasco's research has taken him to the Canadian Arctic, the Russian Federation, the Caribbean, Bermuda, China, Japan, Norway, Great Lakes and even the North Pole.
Current research activities include seafloor scouring by ice keels, submarine permafrost, bottom sediment contamination, and the use of shipwrecks as scientific time markers. His studies primarily focus on unravelling the geological history of seafloor and lakebed sediments over the past 2 million years.
Dive Safety Officer - Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences
Alex Chequer is the Dive Safety Officer and Small Boats Supervisor for Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) where he is responsible for the diving program and the training of divers in scientific techniques. Prior to working at BIOS he was a Research Scientist and the unit Dive Safety Officer for Georgia Institute of Technology where he worked on numerous research projects in Georgia, Florida and Fiji, including 2 saturation missions in NOAA’s Aquarius undersea laboratory. His role in this project will be as a support diver for the dive teams.
Field Technician, Marine Biospeleology Lab - Texas A&M University at Galveston
Brett Gonzalez has a Master’s of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University as well as a B.S in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University at Galveston. His thesis research focused on the bacterial diversity of anchialine blue holes on Abaco Island, Bahamas. Brett currently works for Texas A&M University at Galveston as a faculty member of the Marine Biology and General Academic Departments, a NAUI Scuba Instructor, and as the Coach of the Aggie Crew Team. Brett has been working alongside Tom Iliffe on faunal and ecological studies of anchialine caves for over five years, with diving expeditions to many locations throughout the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Mediterranean. Brett’s future plans include pursuing a PhD in Molecular/Invertebrate Biology where he will continue research of anchialine caves.
Underwater Videographer - www.IntoThePlanet.com
A pioneering underwater explorer and filmmaker, Jill Heinerth has dived deeper into caves than any woman in history. With a collection of magnificent images, from Antarctic iceberg caves to the Floridan Aquifer and subterranean Siberia, Jill shares a glimpse of a breathtaking world few will experience. Her accolades include being inducted to the Women Diver's Hall of Fame and the Explorer’s Club as well as scores of photography and filmmaking awards.
Recognized as a leading technical diver, Jill is known as an industry expert in the use of closed-circuit rebreathers. Her multi-media blog RebreatherPro.com, attracts a large international audience. She is a popular presenter at international diving events from Australia to Central America, Russia, Europe and Canada.
Jill’s photography and writing have been featured in prominent magazines and major newspapers around the world. She contributed to the development of training materials for international organizations and is the author of three books on cave diving and underwater photography.
Jill's website - www.IntoThePlanet.com offers an in depth looks into her film and diving credits.
Paul Heinerth started cave diving in 1971 and has since participated in numerous expeditions to further man’s knowledge of the underwater cave world. Sanctioned by the Explorer’s Club on several occasions, Paul has found and mapped numerous new caves in Florida, Quintana Roo (Mexico) and Belize. Many of these caves are over 300 feet deep. He has collected countless samples of rocks to albino eyeless life forms.
Paul became a cave diving instructor in 1980 and still teaches on a regular basis all levels of cave diving, rebreather diving, trimix diving and sidemount style. He has published several articles and written various chapters in cave diving books. He has operated cameras and video equipment from the ice caves ofAntarctica to the deep wrecks of South Africa. Paul’s longest dive was at Wakulla Spring, in Florida. There he went 300 feet deep for 5 hours of bottom time and travelled a distance of more than 12,000 feet. The decompression schedule was a grueling 15 hours long.
He is currently a member of the Weeki Wachee Karst Project, near Tampa Florida. So far Paul has reached 407 feet of depth exploring in Weeki Wachee and over 5,000 feet has been mapped. He looks forward to more...
Director, Marine Biospeleology Lab - Texas A&M University
Tom Iliffe is the director of the Marine Biospeleology Lab at Texas A&M University and has been conducting faunal and ecological investigations of marine caves for more than 30 years. Prior to starting at Texas A&M in 1989, Dr. Iliffe began his cave studies while a working as a research associate at the Bermuda Biological Station. He has conducted numerous scientific diving expeditions to observe caves around the Caribbean, Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Indo-Pacific regions. He has published 190 scientific papers and has discovered and described more than 250 new species of cave-adapted animals. He is also a diving and cave-diving instructor, using closed circuit rebreather and mixed gas diving technology to explore and investigate submarine caves around the world.
Founder/Director - Bahamas Caves Research Foundation
Brian is a former U.S. Navy Hard Hat Diver with 27 years of professional diving experience. His work has taken him beneath nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, to jumping from helicopters into 10 foot seas, to record penetrations of underwater cave systems around the world.
Brian’s expertise in diving logistics and diving safety has been used widely in both the feature film industry and documentaries as a Diving Safety Officer, fixer, underwater double and stuntman and has experience in remote location logistics as well as studio, on-set work.
His research diving work as Diving Consultant for the National Museum of the Bahamas and various governmental and scientific institutions has revealed new species of cave adapted marine life and new species of extinct terrestrial animal fossils that are now repainting the picture of the Bahamas past environment.
With more than 3000 exploration cave dives, Brian is considered one of the leading authorities on the underwater/underground environments of the Bahamas and is a veteran of multiple high profile underwater cave expeditions in the Bahamas, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Belize, and the U.S.
CEO - Triangle Diving
For the last 5 years, Graham has been working with a number of local and international marine biologists to study the aggregation of the Bermudian Black Grouper. The Bermudian Black Grouper is endemic to Bermuda and appears to aggregate around the full moon to spawn. Graham's Company Triangle Diving has begun to develop techniques to view and record these fish without disturbing the spawning events. Furthermore Triangle Diving has supported Terrence Tysall and Tom Iliffe in their studies in Bermudas Cave Systems.
Chief Scientist, Bermuda Reef Ecosystem Assessment and Mapping Programme - Bermuda Zoological Society
Thad Murdoch is the chief scientist for the Bermuda Reef Ecosystem Assessment and Mapping programme at the Bermuda Zoological Society, and since 2000 has mapped and surveyed Bermudian marine habitats and species in order to provide useful and accurate data to guide local marine management and policy making. Prior to working at BZS Dr. Murdoch was a graduate student and research associate at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama, USA, where he surveyed and studied marine protected areas and the paleoecology of coral reefs across the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
Chairman of Research and Conservation - Bermuda Zoological Society
Gil is with the Bermuda Zoological Society’s Executive Committee. BZS is the support charity for the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo. BZS and BAMZ are science, administration and logistics partners in this expedition. He is coordinating logistics for the expedition in Bermuda with Triangle Diving’s Captain Graham Maddocks. An active Cave diver, Gil is a founder of the Bermuda Cave and Karst Investigation, BeCKI, along with Dr. Wolfgang Sterrer, Dr. Iliffe and Bernie Szukalski of ESRI. BeCKI is a multidisciplinary Bermuda wide cave research and information management project. Gil has worked with Dr. Iliffe, other scientists and Bermudians on dry and submerged cave research, education, survey and management policy development in Bermuda since 1999. He was the dive safety officer for the Bermuda Black Grouper Spawning Aggregation Project (BGSPAG) in 2006-2007. At BZS Gil is active in BREAM, the Bermuda Reef Ecosystem Assessment and Mapping programme that provides data for resource managers on coral, fish and many other marine species distributions across the Bermuda platform. Gil will act as a support diver for the expedition.
Curator - Bermuda Natural History Museum
Dr Robbie Smith is Bermudian marine scientist, currently the Curator of the Bermuda Natural History Museum and he is responsible for cataloging and identifying biological specimens collected on this expedition. Very few organisms have been collected from the deep fore-reef slope of the Bermuda Seamount historically. Deep mesotrophic reefs are a significant habitat for fishes in Bermuda but the ecology of these reefs is very poorly understood. A determination of the species diversity on these deep reefs and the relationships to shallower reefs is essential for future management and conservation efforts.
Dr. Smith was an Assistant Research Scientist at the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences from 1991 to 2003 and a Lecturer in Biology at Georgia State University in Atlanta from 2003 to 2009. He has an extensive research diving background including NOAA saturation missions in the Hydrolab in St Croix and the Aquarius Reef Base in Key Largo. His recent research effort has been a NOAA-funded ten year study of the processes of coral recruitment and juvenile coral mortality in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to determine the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas in enhancing coral populations. In Bermuda, he is currently collaborating in a study of the ecology of Bermuda’s outer reef terrace from 20-30m depth, documenting patterns of diversity with depth.