- Hot2Cold Vents
- About Hydrothermal Vents
- Education and Outreach Opportunities
- Teacher Professional Development Workshop
- Expedition Participants
- Get in Touch
This research project is about understanding the organisms that live in hydrothermal vent ecosystems and the surrounding seafloor terrain.
The project includes two research expeditions on the R/V Atlantis to study vents at 9°50’N on the East Pacific Rise, an underwater mountain range, or mid-ocean ridge.
The expedition left Manzanillo, Mexico on December 17, 2019 with 20 scientists and an even larger group of technicians and crew members. It ended on January 7, 2020 in Balboa, Panama.
We’re using two underwater vehicles to explore the deep ocean. Alvin, a three-person submersible that can travel to 4,500 meters, and Sentry, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that can go to 6,000 meters deep. Both vehicles are part of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution National Deep Submergence Facility.
Our first expedition left San Francisco with 15 scientists on March 25, 2019 and returned to San Diego on April 24. Read about it here.
About Hydrothermal 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 fluid 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.
Education and outreach Opportunities
We’re blogging and sharing the expedition on Twitter and Instagram. Find us by searching for #hot2coldvents.
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.
Exploring by the Seat of your Pants LIVE — December 19, 1:00-1:45PM EST. Classrooms can hang out with expedition scientists and check out Alvin and Sentry. Space is limited; sign up here.
Instagram takeovers — December 24–26 and December 30–31. See our expedition in action over the holidays on the American Geophysical Union (AGU) account.
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—Summer 2021
In partnership with the SEAD Gallery in Bryan, Texas, 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.
Please note that we planned to hold this in June 2020, but must reschedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The workshop will likely be in summer 2021.
To register or be notified of the 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
- Charlie Holmes | grad student | sulfide microbiology
- Shu Ying Wee | grad student | enzymes, basalt microbiology
College of Charleston
- Heather Fullerton | assistant professor | microbial mats
- Andrew Sweetman | professor | climate change
- Sarah Moriarty | graduate student | sulfide age dating/mass accumulation
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
- Jyun-Nai Wu | grad student | mapping
University of Bremen
- Jonas Brünjes | grad student | lipids
University of Minnesota
University of Rhode Island
- Megan Lubetkin | grad student | geology
Western Washington University
- Shawn Arellano | assistant professor | larvae
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
- Lauren Mullineaux | principal investigator | larvae
- Lauren Dykman | grad student | larvae
- Carolyn Tepolt | assistant scientist | animals
- Bethany Fleming | guest student | animals
- Susan Mills | emeritus scholar | larvae
- Stace Beaulieu | senior research specialist | ADCP mooring, data, and animals
- Dan Fornari | principal investigator, Sentry work | mapping
Education and Outreach: Rebecca Fowler
Get in touch
We love mail. Have questions about this project? Write to us.
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.