Dr. Fred GrassleInterview with Dr. Fred Grassle

Why are you interested in your particular area of study?

My main interest is in deep-sea biodiversity. I have always been interested in oceans exploration, unusual animals, and the places they live.

At what age did you decide you wanted to become a scientist? Was your decision related to any specific event in your life, and if so, what was that event?

While taking invertebrate zoology as an undergraduate, my laboratory instructor asked me to go to the Arctic Ocean with him and study life on the sea bottom. I obtained a grant but at the last minute there was no space at the field station where would be working from. Gordon Riley, a well-known biological oceanographer on the faculty, arranged for me to use my grant to study the bottom animals at depths below the effects of waves off the outer part of Cape Cod with Howard Sanders at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as my adviser. Many of the species were rare and some were undescribed. I spent a major part of the next year learning to identify these animals from collections in the Peabody Museum at Yale. My summer in Woods Hole convinced me to go into marine sciences.

Who were your role models? Why?

I was fortunate to have many role models. A high school chemistry teacher who was an avid naturalist and invited me and several other students to work on his Christmas tree farm in an isolated part of rural Ohio. A biology teacher who studied marine invertebrates helped my interest in biology. I have already mentioned some of my college influences. Evelyn Hutchinson was an impressive lecturer and a mentor for Gordon Riley and Howard Sanders. He was a dominant influence in ecology and one of the first to write about processes controlling biodiversity.

Who encouraged you in your pursuit of science?

Parents, teachers, and friends.

What is the most fascinating thing you have ever seen in the deep sea?

The hydrothermal vents at Rose Garden on the Galapagos Rift in the Pacific Ocean..

How does you research affect people?

Some of my research has strengthened the evidence for an enormous diversity of life in the deep sea and helped to change the way textbooks talk about life in the deep ocean. I hope some of you will benefit from the new compounds from the deep-sea that might be used to treat diseases. I also hope that some of you will be able to see a deep-sea hydrothermal vent.


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