Principal Investigator - Florida International University
Kevin Boswell, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor and Director of the Marine Biology Program at Florida International University (FIU) where he leads the Marine Ecology and Acoustics Lab. He is a marine ecologist with expertise in the use of acoustics to study ecological processes across multiple scales, including predator-prey dynamics and fish behavior, as well as applications to oceanography and fisheries. He is currently leading the development of the Interdisciplinary Initiative for Autonomous Systems in Environmental Research at FIU, a joint partnership to bridge biological and computer sciences to address sampling challenges in constrained environments. He is a member of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Working Group on Fisheries Acoustics, Science, and Technology, and the co-founder of the Southeast Regional Acoustics Consortium. Kevin received his bachelor’s degree in marine fisheries from Texas A&M University at Galveston and his Ph.D. in oceanography and coastal science from Louisiana State University.
Director of Operations, National Geographic Exploration Technology Lab
In his role as Director of Operations in the National Geographic Exploration Technology Lab, Kyler works with National Geographic Society (NGS) grantees, fellows, and partner organizations to identify and implement projects making use of the exploration technology team’s expertise to develop and apply technology solutions to a wide range of research and exploration challenges. He began working with technology for conservation purposes during his graduate research at the University of Minnesota, employing satellite-linked time-depth recorders to identify critical habitat for the endangered Hawaiian monk seals. He has worked on the technology development team at NGS for more than 20 years, designing, testing, and deploying a variety of technologies, and participating in more than 100 technology-implementation field projects ranging from tropical islands to Antarctica. He is a field biologist at heart and is happiest when out in remote places, observing animals.
Co-founder, Second Star Robotics
Eric Berkenpas received a bachelor of science in electrical engineering with a minor in computer science from South Dakota State University and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Maine. Eric is the former Senior Director of the National Geographic Exploration Technology Lab. While there he developed technology programs in both terrestrial and marine conservation. He established critical partnerships with technology companies and worked to provide National Geographic grantees, collaborating researchers, and initiatives with novel technology solutions in the field. An engineer first and foremost, he created a novel high-reliability, real-time operating system for low-power microcontrollers, control systems for deep-diving underwater robotics, and new methods for surveying archaeological sites with radar. He has been around the world from Antarctica to King Tut’s tomb in support of National Geographic expeditions and projects.
In 2019 he departed National Geographic with fellow engineer Charles (Mike) Shepard to establish Second Star Robotics where he works to develop innovative products and technologies to meet customer needs. His current work focuses on developing novel autonomous sensor platforms for terrestrial and marine applications.
Professor and Director, Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean, and Ecosystem Studies (CICOES) - University of Washington
John Horne, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS) and Executive Director of the Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean, and Ecosystem Studies (CICOES). His current research interests focus on quantifying spatial and temporal dynamics of pelagic ecosystems, the application of active acoustics and related technologies to investigate how distributions and interactions of aquatic animals influence ecosystem structure and function, and the development of data acquisition and analytic packages for census and ecological surveys that support resource management, ocean observing, and marine renewable energy environmental monitoring. John received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and his Ph.D. at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Research Faculty - University of South Florida
The utilization of technology to assist in understanding oceanographic systems is increasingly essential to making new discoveries. Technological innovations can provide new insight for understanding how the ocean works when properly utilized. This can be realized by creating, optimizing, or even repurposing technology to look at the environment in new innovative ways that can provide new insights or enable significant efficiencies in the collection of observations. My tenure at USF has focused on this in collaboration with researchers and other engineers to facilitate the collection of observations to further research endeavors.
Project Manager, DEEPEND Consortium - Nova Southeastern University
April Cook is the Project Manager for the Deep Pelagic Nekton Dynamics of the Gulf of Mexico (DEEPEND) Consortium. She is an expert in deep-pelagic fish identification as well as project and database management. Her areas of interest include the biology, ecology, and taxonomy of deep-pelagic fishes with a focus on the swallowerfishes of the Family Chiasmodontidae. April received her bachelor’s degree in marine science from Coastal Carolina University and her master’s degree in marine science from the College of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). April is responsible for coordinating the education and outreach efforts during the expedition, as well as identifying the fishes recorded on video.
Senior Scientist, NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science
Chris Taylor, Ph.D., is a senior scientist with the habitat mapping team in NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. His research team uses scuba and remotely operated or autonomous vehicles with underwater acoustics and optical remote sensing technologies to observe the distribution of marine animals and to identify sensitive habitats and assess their ecological value in marine ecosystems. Outcomes from this research guides the planning of coastal ocean usage (such as siting of offshore energy development), determines effectiveness and design of marine protected areas, and aids in the exploration of remote ocean environments. His team conducts research on shipwrecks and rocky reefs offshore North Carolina, coral reefs in Florida, pinnacles and coral banks in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, and as far south as Antarctica. Chris and his team have developed data visualization and interactive mapping techniques that make complicated scientific data more accessible. He received his master’s and Ph.D. in zoology from North Carolina State University and his bachelor’s degree in biology from University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point. He lives in Morehead City, North Carolina with his wife and fellow NOAA colleague, Larisa Avens, Ph.D.
Knauss Sea Grant Fellow, NOAA Ocean Exploration
Lu Wang, Ph.D., completed her bachelor’s degree in molecular environmental biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and her Ph.D. in microbiology from Oregon State University. Her undergraduate research topics covered rangeland ecology and plant biology, including a study on the effects of various watering methods on the microbial communities of agricultural plants. This interest in plant-microbe interactions led to her graduate work on the influence of environmental perturbations on the seagrass microbiome. Studying seagrass ecosystems and sediment biogeochemical cycling sparked an appreciation of coasts and oceans, leading to her current position as a Knauss fellow with NOAA Ocean Exploration. Lu will be acting as web coordinator for this expedition.
National Geographic Society Graduate Research Fellow, Link Foundation for Ocean Engineering & Instrumentation Fellow - University of Maryland
Rachel Suitor is a third year Ph.D. student with the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland (UMD) supported by a National Geographic Society (NGS) Graduate Research Fellowship. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering along with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from the University at Buffalo in 2019. At the UMD Collective Dynamics and Control Lab, her research interests lie within dynamics and control for aerospace systems, specifically swarming autonomous vehicles and underactuated robotic systems in the air, sea, and space. Rachel is collaborating with NGS on the Driftcam project, developing adaptive swarming control strategies for the simultaneous deployment of multiple Driftcam vehicles. Her continued work on this project is supported by the Link Foundation Fellowship for Ocean Engineering & Instrumentation.
Research Faculty - University of South Florida
Alex Silverman has been a research staff member at the University of South Florida (USF), College of Marine Science for over a decade. He has worked on several significant projects at USF, including operating and integrating Webb Research-designed Slocum underwater gliders, designing numerous remote sensor data collection units, serving as lead software engineer for the design and implementation of a towed video/sensor platform, and operating and evaluating a neural network-based computer vision system to assess fisheries stock on the West Florida Shelf. He has amassed several months of sea time working aboard a variety of research vessels deploying, operating, debugging, and performing field repairs on many different instruments. Alex received a master’s degree in electrical engineering, and focused his studies on machine vision, pattern recognition, and artificial intelligence. He also engaged in various robotic projects and repeatedly participated in autonomous underwater vehicle competitions sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which included the creation of a new, redesigned vehicle in 2004.
Professor and Director/Principal Investigator, DEEPEND Consortium - Guy Harvey Oceanographic Center and Nova Southeastern University
Tracey Sutton, Ph.D., is a Professor of Marine Science at the Guy Harvey Oceanographic Center, Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences, Nova Southeastern University (NSU), and the Director/Principal Investigator of the DEEPEND consortium . Tracey has conducted research in a wide range of ecosystems, including the North Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Sargasso Sea, South Atlantic, and Southern Ocean, with additional projects planned in the North and Central Pacific. Current projects in Tracey’s NSU Oceanic Ecology Lab involve pelagic ecosystem structure (biodiversity, spatiotemporal variation, and conservation), benthopelagic coupling (e.g., pelagic interactions with deepwater reefs), ichthyology, food-web ecology, taxonomy, systematics, and biogeography. Tracey received his Ph.D. at the College of Marine Sciences, University of South Florida, and was a postdoctoral scholar at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Senior Software Lead, Allen Institute of Brain Science
Ross Hytnen has worked in acoustics research for 14 years, both as a contractor for the military and as lab staff in the Horne Lab at the University of Washington. Currently, he is the senior software lead at the Allen Institute of Brain Science where he designs and implements software solutions that enable industrial scale neuroscience.