Hot2Cold Vents

Good news! We’re heading back to the East Pacific Rise in December 2019 with both familiar and new research objectives and faces. We can’t wait to tell you more soon.


Hot2Cold Vents is an interdisciplinary effort to understand the microbial communities that make up hydrothermal vent ecosystems.

The project includes two research expeditions on the R/V Atlantis to study vents at 9°50’N on the East Pacific Rise with Alvin, a three-person submersible used to explore the deep ocean.

The 2019 expedition left San Francisco with 15 scientists on March 25 and returned to San Diego on April 24.

About Hot2Cold Vents

Located along the seafloor in tectonically active areas, hydrothermal vents are fissures in the ocean crust where super hot, mineral-rich water flows out from inside the earth. Vents are hotspots of biodiversity in the deep ocean: Tiny microbes, the base of the marine food web, thrive around vents, along with many other organisms unique to this environment.

There many things we still don’t know about hydrothermal vents, which were discovered in 1977. Much of the research done prior to the early 2000s focused on the actively venting chimneys.

In recent years, scientists have been studying vents that become inactive. Although water no longer flows out of such vents, they can last for decades to thousands of years and are therefore potentially important ecosystems in the deep sea. Scientists found that the microbes living on these inactive vents are very different from the microbes dwelling near active vents, but they don’t yet know why.

The goal of this research project is to learn how microbial communities and geological conditions change when a vent transitions from active to inactive. Understanding these processes will add to our knowledge of hydrothermal vents and the biology and chemistry of the deep ocean.

Check out WHOI’s Dive and Discover resources to learn even more about hydrothermal vents.

This is Alvin, a submersible operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. It’s capable of reaching depths of 4,500 meters and carries two scientists and one pilot on each dive. (Photo courtesy of Luis Lamar, WHOI)

Education and outreach

We’re blogging here and sharing the expedition on Twitter and Instagram. Find us by searching for #hot2coldvents.

Blue Planet Live — The program will broadcast live (sadly David Attenborough won’t be with us) from the R/V Atlantis at the start of our expedition. The series begins Sunday, March 24 at 8PM on BBC One.

Expedition scientists are available to video chat with classrooms and student organizations. Please fill out this short form to arrange for a scientist to talk to your students.

Instagram takeover — April 7-9. See our expedition in action on the American Geophysical Union (AGU) account.

Skype a Scientist LIVE — April 11, 12PM EST. Tune in to a live Q&A from the R/V Atlantis with expedition scientists Jason Sylvan, Rose Jones, and Amanda Achberger. If you missed the live event, watch it here.

Exploring by the Seat of your Pants LIVE — April 16 and 17, 10:30-11:15AM EST. Classrooms can hang out with expedition scientists Amy Gartman, John Jamieson, and Eoghan Reeves. Space is limited; sign up here by searching for Deep-sea Exploration | Alvin and R/V Atlantis.

Educational Resources — Dive and Discover has hydrothermal vent diagrams, interviews with scientists, classroom activities, and more. Check out these kid’s activities created by WHOI for Alvin’s 50th birthday in 2014.

Teacher Professional Development Workshop—June 2020

In partnership with the SEAD Gallery in Bryan, Texas, in summer 2020 we’ll host a free, one-day professional development workshop for Texas middle school teachers and informal science educators interested in increasing their ocean science knowledge and collaborating with scientists.

Teachers will learn about hydrothermal vent sulfides and the microscopic life that inhabit them, and how to perform inquiry-based experiments on these topics. Each participant will also receive the equipment needed to replicate these in the classroom.

Workshop content is tied to Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) science standards for students in grades 6-8 on the themes of scientific inquiry and organisms and environments. Student learning outcomes from these activities include understanding how hydrothermal vent sulfides are formed, what the physical conditions are like at these sites, how microbial life exists in extreme environments, and how these organisms interact with their ecosystem.

Each participant will receive a stipend, transportation reimbursement, and lunch. Pending approval, we will provide Texas CPE credits to participants. Educators from outside Southeast Texas are welcome to attend but we are unable to guarantee full travel support—please contact us to discuss details.

The workshop will be led by Jason Sylvan, a microbiologist and assistant professor at Texas A&M University, and co-taught by other expedition scientists.

To register or be notified of the 2020 workshop date, complete this form. The number of workshop participants is limited to 10; all additional registrants will be placed on a waiting list.

Expedition Participants and Their Expertise

Texas A&M University

  • Jason Sylvan | chief scientist | sulfide microbiology
  • Amanda Achberger | postdoc | sulfide microbiology/biogeochemistry
  • Charles Homes II | graduate student | sulfide microbiology
  • Mia Self | undergraduate | microbial exoenzymes

University of Minnesota 

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

U.S. Geological Survey

  • Amy Gartman | research scientist | chemistry/electrochemistry

Western Washington University

  • Craig Moyer | professor | bacteria traps, microbial mats

Memorial University

  • John Jamieson | assistant professor | sulfide age dating/mass accumulation
  • Sarah Moriarty | graduate student | sulfide age dating/mass accumulation

Texas A&M University at Galveston

  • Kate Campbell | graduate student | viruses

University of Bergen

University of Southern California

  • Ben Tully | research scientist | water column microbiology
  • Mike Henson | postdoc, Thrash lab | microbial culturing

Education and Outreach: Rebecca Fowler

Contact Us

Have questions about this project? Send us an email.

This project is supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.