Newport High School (OR)

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A selection of questions from Skype on Tuesday Sept 10 with Dr. Jim Holden of University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Dr. Dave Butterfield of University of Washington and NOAA, and Dr. Bill Chadwick of Oregon State University:

1. Is your job as a microbiologist important?
Jim Holden: Yes, this work is very important for several reasons, for one thing we are studying new organisms and the places and processes in which they live, we search for new life here at the vents and gather information that has applications in the biotechnical industry, energy production fields, pharmaceuticals, and ecology.

2. How do you collect microorganisms at sea?
Dave Butterfield: We have specific instruments for different types of samples we’re collecting, for instance for chemistry and microbiology samples we have an oversized syringe type sampler on Jason, an intake nozzle that can be placed into the vent with a hose that goes into a clean bag inside bottles that are carried on the ROV- water is pulled into the bag and stored in the bottles.
Jim Holden: the bags are like a big syringe and we can grow organisms from the fluids collected Note- you can see images of the samplers and bottles in several blog entries on microbes and about the ROV

3. What are the educational requirements for your jobs?
Dave Butterfield: the educational requirements vary for the different roles people play here. The lead scientists typically have PhD in a science like oceanography, chemistry, biology or geology, but other people here have Masters or Bachelor’s degrees and are working on projects throughout the cruise, some of whom are doing research, and others provide excellent technical support.
Note: The team working on the Energy Harness Device (to convert hot water from vents to electricity) as well as several other members of the science team is a group of electrical and mechanical engineers, we also have several graduate students working on their research. See more about the background and education of the Science Team on the blog.

4. Where are you now?
Bill Chadwick: We are in the computer lab of the ship, there’s a big video monitor behind us that we can use to watch what’s going on at the seafloor. These are video feeds of the same thing that the Jason Pilots see- but they have more video monitors, but it helps us see what’s going on during the dive if we’re not on watch in the Jason control van with the pilots.
Follow-up: What is your latitude and longitude?
Bill Chadwick: We are at Axial Seamount, which is at about 46°N latitude and 130°W longitude and about 270 miles west of Astoria, Oregon.
Jim Holden: We’re now right above the volcano;
Bill Chadwick: Yes, Axial is a big volcano on the bottom of the ocean- it’s like if we were in orbit above the planet looking down through the clouds to the surface of the earth, but here, we can only look at the sea floor by getting through the water first.