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#PROTATAX: Cruise to Axial Seamount July 2023

Life and Death at Axial Seamount: PROTATAX23

Water-rock reactions at and below the seafloor support a diverse biosphere of microscopic life in crustal ocean habitats, providing critical ecosystem services such as primary production to sustain deep-sea food webs, nutrient and element recycling, carbon sequestration, and symbiotic relationships with diverse animals. Nowhere is this more visible than at deep-sea hydrothermal vents, where the mixing of hot hydrothermal fluid with cool seawater creates hotspots of microbial activity in the deep sea. While we have learned a lot about the microbes (bacteria and archaea), we know much less about other components of the food web, especially microbial eukaryotes, leaving a substantial gap in our knowledge of food web structure and carbon cycling. On this cruise to Axial Seamount, a deep-sea volcano about 300 miles off the coast of Oregon, we will study protistan interactions with microbes in the form of grazing and cell lysis, which most certainly impacts the distribution and richness of microbial populations and the flow of carbon, nutrients, and energy in these ecosystems.  To follow our cruise, please check #protatax23 on Twitter & Instagram.


The team

This cruise is being led by Julie Huber as Chief Scientist, with Assistant Scientist Maria Pachiadaki and Assistant Professor Sarah Hu leading the protistan grazing experiments. Our team includes MBL Scientist and modeler Joe Vallino, recently graduated MIT PhD Emilie, and 2 new graduate students joining Sarah's lab, Kayla and Alexis. We will also be working with URI grad student Anna, JPL Postdoc Bonnie, UW grad student Dylan, UVic grad student Nova, and NOAA geochemist Anson. Our microbial studies will be rounded out with the cultivation team from University of Massachusetts, Amherst, led by Jim Holden, with graduate students Gema and Brianna. WHOI writer Hannah will be providing blog posts and photographs of our work, and finally, the ROV Jason team from WHOI will be making sure we get to the seafloor, and the R/V Thompson ship's crew will keep us afloat!

Learn more about Axial Seamount, the ship we are sailing on, the R/V Thompson, and the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Jason!


This cruise is sponsored by NSF Biological Oceanography Award 1947776 with contributions from NOAA Ocean Exploration and the NOAA Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute.

Our cruise is endorsed by the Challenger 150 Program.