Over a decade ago, our research team ventured into the deep Pacific Ocean near Costa Rica. At depths of 3000 meters, our mission was to sample fluids emerging from the ocean crust. Our primary ambition? To uncover the secrets of the microbial communities inhabiting the ocean crust, pinpointing the chemical reactions that allow them to flourish, and extrapolating these findings to potential life in other ocean worlds like Enceladus and Europa.
Earlier research in this region identified 11 unique outcrops emerging from the impermeable sediments, facilitating water interchange between the ocean and its crust. Intriguingly, a staggering 80% of the crustal heat in this region appeared to be unaccounted for. The dominant theory proposed that vigorous hydrothermal circulation was responsible for this vast heat discrepancy. Eager to corroborate this, our quest led us to the anticipated fluid flows at the enigmatic Dorado outcrop.
When our robotic emissary reached Dorado, it unveiled a breathtaking spectacle: a thriving oasis teeming with biodiversity. Most astonishingly, over a hundred brooding octopus nestled in crevices, laying their precious egg sacs in the warm, shimmering water cascading from this underwater pinnacle. In this unexpected turn of events, we had stumbled upon the world's first known deep-sea octopus nursery, a revelation even we were unprepared for and initially unequipped to fully comprehend.
A decade later, armed with renewed funding, a revamped team, and a state-of-the-art vessel, we revisited the mesmerizing site of our inaugural discovery to determine if they were still there, and further explore this region to identify additional sites of biodiversity worthy of protection.
Join us on this journey as we embark on a decades long interdisciplinary voyage of discovery that led to finding a second octopus nursery, a skate nursery, and many more exotic creatures that illustrate the adaptability and resilience of deep-sea life. Hopefully, you will leave with a better appreciation of these fragile environments, and acknowledge our responsibility to protect them…
Rachel's journey in earth science began with a profound curiosity about the inner workings of our planet. Her career has carved a unique niche, delving into the fascinating intersection of the seafloor and Earth's mysteries—an area we know less about than the surface of Mars.
Her research is a testament to her curiosity, particularly focusing on the dynamic relationship between life and the ocean/earth interface. Rachel's work primarily centers on terrestrial and submarine hydrogeology, where she diligently unravels the planet's mysteries beneath the ocean's depths. Her ground-breaking research in submarine hydrogeology, specifically the movement of fluids beneath the oceanic crust, has led her to explore the ocean's depths aboard Alvin, a deep-water submersible, reaching depths of 4.5 kilometers. This unique perspective has granted her profound insights into the intricate connections between geoscience and biology in the Deep Ocean. Most recently, she played a pivotal role in an international collaboration, working alongside biologists, policy researchers, artists, and others, focused on understanding fluid exchange and it’s support of life at depths of 3.5 kilometers.
Beyond her research, Rachel is an inspiring educator. She doesn't simply teach; she mentors and guides, passionately committed to shaping the future of her students. Her unwavering dedication to preparing undergraduates and graduates for global challenges is evident in her creation of innovative courses, her mentorship beyond the classroom, and her active involvement in curriculum development. Her mission is to ensure that students not only secure jobs after graduation but also embark on fulfilling careers that continue to evolve. She actively participates in various department, faculty, and university committees, recognizing that collaboration and shared responsibility are essential for a thriving academic community.
Rachel is a scientist who relentlessly pursues knowledge, endeavours to make the world safer, and is devoted to inspiring and supporting the next generation of scientists.
Watch the Schmidt Ocean Institute's Next Expedition!
The team returns to continue their research, collect experiments they placed earlier in the year, and examine new regions never-before-seen by humans. The science team’s ultimate goal is to better understand the hydrogeology, microbiology, ecology, and geochemistry that may facilitate octopus nurseries while characterizing life-supporting services provided by the ecosystems on these seamounts.
View Livestream of next expedition (operational December 1 - 10, 2023)
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