Willett Elementary (CA)

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Willett Elementary School, Ms. Whiteford, Davis, CA A selection of questions from Skype on Wednesday Sept 11 with Dr. Bill Chadwick of Oregon State University and Dr. Caroline Fortunato of the Marine Biological Laboratory

1. What is the difference between studying eruptions underwater and eruptions on land?
Bill Chadwick: The biggest difference is that we can’t see eruptions on the seafloor so we don’t know when they are erupting unless we can detect them with instruments, which is kind of exciting to be doing here.

2. Describe some adaptations that animals have had to be able to live at the vents.
Caroline Fortunato: The deep ocean is dark and cold but at the vents bacteria survive that can be food for snails and tubeworms that live at the vents. Tube worms have sacs of bacteria that live inside them that become their food too. The rest of the ecosystem can live from the bacteria or other things that live from the bacteria which are the lowest organisms on the food chain there. Note: to see some other organisms that live around the hydrothermal vents, check out this webpage: http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/eoi/nemo/explorer/bio_gallery/biogallery1.html

3. Where and how was ROV Jason developed? And Who operates Jason and how difficult is it to drive? And We know Medea assists Jason, how does Jason move around on the seafloor?
Bill Chadwick: ROV Jason was built by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, Massachusetts by a team of mechanical and electrical engineers about 10 years ago. There are 10 pilots and engineers with us on this cruise from the Jason group and they operate Jason during the expedition. They are very skilled pilots who had to go through extensive training. Unfortunately, they don’t let the scientists drive Jason because we’d probably crash it! Jason is attached to Medea by a cable that gives it power and communications- Medea is also attached to a cable that goes to the ship. Jason is driven by the pilots who use thrusters to control its movement on the ocean floor.

4. If you work around the clock on the ship, is it hard to sleep?
Caroline Fortunato: We work around the clock because there is a lot of science to get done in a very short time while we’re out here but there are rooms below deck that don’t have any windows so it’s dark and we get used to sleeping anytime we can, even with the noise of the ship. Bill Chadwick: Yes, even though things are going on around the clock, not everyone works all the time, we divide the day into shifts so everyone works some of the time and keeps things going.

5. How big is Axial Seamount compared to volcanoes in California?
Bill Chadwick: Axial Volcano is at a spreading center and rises about 2000 feet above the seafloor, so it doesn’t compete with the height of volcanoes like Mt Shasta but might be the height of something like Sutter Buttes. But it is a shield volcano (Sutter Buttes are dome volcanoes) so the shape is fairly flat compared to volcanoes of the Cascade Subduction zone.