The Gulf of California is a young ocean undergoing changes including active seafloor spreading, early rifting, and large-scale hydrothermal activity. The rare combination of geological dynamics present in the Gulf of California makes it an ideal place to advance our understanding of deep ocean hydrothermal ecosystems. The basin offers a natural laboratory for investigating changes in microbial communities and dynamics
Dr. Samantha Joye and her multi-national team will compare the biology, geology, chemistry, and microbiology of sites along the southern to the northern Gulf. The northern area is largely unexplored and the geological characteristics, microbiology, and seafloor fauna are unknown, making a portion of the expedition exploratory in nature. We will explore known and new sites in the Guaymas and Pescadero Basins, building on previous work and diving on new sites. The team aims to identify and quantify habitat-specific microbial populations and assess how those microorganisms interact with the geologic structures and megafauna of vents, seeps, and hydrates. The scientists will visit eight areas in the Gulf, seeking to reveal previously unknown areas with shipboard mapping that is followed by collection of sediment, fluid, and microbiology samples collected with ROV SuBastian. In-situ tools including the ABISS autonomous lander and jumbo osmotic fluid samplers will be used to obtain geochemical data under in situ conditions. Together, these data will help us unravel the microbial mysteries of the Gulf of California.
The science team aims to identify and quantify habitat-specific microbial populations and assess how those microorganisms interact with the geologic structures and megafauna of vents and seeps. The scientists will visit eight sites in the Gulf, looking for hydrothermal plumes above active vents. These plumes will be sampled using the CTD with transect mapping used to better characterize the vent signatures. ROV SuBastian will be deployed to collect sediment, fluid, microbial mats, and benthic fauna samples. Finally, using the ABISS Lander, a novel biogeochemical seafloor observatory, developed in part by the Girguis lab at Harvard, will be used for in-situ sampling.
This expedition both advance our understanding of seafloor spreading dynamics, and inform responsible use and protection of valuable marine resources from these rare and underexplored regions.
To find out about more about this expedition, visit the research cruise’s webpage.