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Meet the Team

Blog Authors

Mike DunnMike Dunn
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Raleigh, NC

Mike provides school grounds ecology workshops and field experiences for educators statewide and to locations beyond, such as Yellowstone National Park. He has been a Museum educator for 21 years. He participated in the month-long 2006 NABOS (Nansen and Amundsen Basins Observational System) cruise to the Arctic Ocean as an educator and photographer. During the 2010 Deep Sea Coral mission, he will share research activities with the public via blog postings from the ship. He will work closely with researchers and the ship’s crew to answer questions sent from students, and will assist the research team wherever needed. Mike has a BS in Biology from VPI&SU and an MS in Environmental Sciences from UVA.

Beverly OwenBeverly Owens
Eighth Grade Science Teacher
Crest Middle School
Shelby, NC

I teach 8th grade science at Crest Middle School, and have taught science for 8 years. I received my AA degree from Cleveland Community College, and BS and MA  from Gardner-Webb University. I coach my school’s Science Olympiad team after school. I have participated in two dinosaur digs in Wyoming, and on two occasions took some of my 8th grade students out west through Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota to visit geological and paleontological sites. I received the 2010 NCSTA District 6 Outstanding Science Teaching Award and NC Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center’s K-8 Outstanding Educator Award. I love exploring the world and learning new things that I can share with my students, and I look forward to sharing information gathered as a result of the Deep Coral Expedition with my students and colleagues.

Principal Investigators

Sandra BrookeDr. Sandra Brooke
co-Principal Investigator
Marine Conservation Biology Institute
Bellevue, WA

Dr. Brooke earned a BS in Biological Sciences and an MS in Bio-aeronautics in England then spent a few years working in mosquito control in the Cayman Islands, where she learned to dive and discovered marine ecosystems. Sandra then worked in Honduras on mosquito control, before moving to the Virginia Institute of Marine Biology, where she obtained an MA in Marine Biology. Her PhD was a joint venture between the University of Southampton in England and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Florida and her dissertation research focused on the reproductive ecology of a deepwater coral Oculina varicosa. Sandra then worked at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology where she was involved in several deepwater coral projects including a survey of deepwater coral ecosystems of the Aleutian Islands, reproductive ecology of Lophelia pertusa from Norwegian Fjords, and habitat characterization of deepwater coral habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Straits. Before coming to MCBI she worked as project manager of the Coral Reef Evaluation and Monitoring Project.

Dr. Steve Ross
co-Principal Investigator
University of North Carolina at Wilmington
Wilmington, NC

Dr. Ross is a native of North Carolina and has spent most of his career involved in marine science of the southeast region. He earned a BS degree in zoology from Duke University, a Master’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, and a PhD from North Carolina State University. He was the Research Coordinator for the NC Coastal Reserve Program for 13 years. He is currently a research faculty at UNC-W and also helps lead offshore studies for the US Geological Survey. His area of specialization is ichthyology (fishes), particularly in areas of ecology and life history studies (age, growth, feeding, reproduction). He has conducted numerous, diverse projects in estuaries and offshore waters and has served as chief scientist on many cruises, including several using submersibles. The current work of Dr. Ross and his team involves assessment of the fish communities of several unique deep water habitats off the southeastern US and in the Gulf of Mexico. In particular, they are looking at energy flow (trophodynamics) and relationships of animals to various habitats, including coral banks, canyon systems, and rocky areas. One ultimate goal of such studies is to provide information for these poorly known areas that will facilitate management and protection of productive habitats.

Scientists & Technicians

Tara CasazzaTara Casazza
University of North Carolina at Wilmington
Wilmington, NC

Tara Casazza is a coastal and deep-sea fisheries research associate with the Center for Marine Science at UNCW. She holds a BS in marine biology from UNCW and an MS in marine science from UNCW, where she compared open ocean surface fish communities in two habitats: Sargassum versus open water, and determined trophic relationships between fishes collected from these two habitats. Her research interests also include the biology of flying fishes, the distribution, abundance and feeding of eel larvae, and analyzing gut contents of deep-sea fishes. Tara has participated in many offshore cruises. During the 2010 mission, Tara will assist with gear management, data collection and fish identifications.

Katharine Coykendall
USGS-Biological Resources Division at Leetown Science Center

Even though Katharine Coykendall hails from the Appalachian Mountains in East Tennessee, she has wanted to be a marine biologist since she was in third grade. To that end, she pursued her BS at the University of South Carolina in marine science and her doctoral research at Bodega Marine Lab affiliated with the University of California, Davis. Her research background has included conservation, population, and evolutionary genetics of several species of endangered and commercially important fish in both freshwater and marine habitats. In addition, she has worked at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and Rutgers University on the deep-sea hydrothermal vent worm, Riftia pachyptila, and the effects of frequent extinctions and re-colonizations of local populations would have on global genetic patterns. This afforded her the opportunity to participate in three research cruises that visited many hydrothermal vent sites in the southern and equatorial Pacific using both manned (DSV Alvin) and unmanned (ROV Jason) collection tools. She also participated in several cruises to whale falls and cold seeps in the Monterey Bay. She joins this cruise as a geneticist for the USGS-Biological Resources Division at Leetown Science Center. She will conduct sampling of the deep-sea coral, Lophelia pertusa, and other invertebrate species associated with the coral to assess patterns of genetic connectivity between western Atlantic species and their conspecifics in the Gulf of Mexico.

Andy DavidAndy David
NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service
Panama City, FL

A native Floridian, Andy David has been a NOAA researcher for 19 years at the Panama City Laboratory working on a wide range of topics including; identification of hatchery-reared red drum after their release into the wild, recruitment dynamics of juvenile snapper along Florida’s west coast, and the efficacy of Marine Protected Areas as a management tool to increase populations of economically valuable reef fish. Andy was recently selected by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program to lead the South Atlantic Deep Coral team to investigate coral habitats and associated vertebrate and invertebrate species at depths between 400 and 1000m (1300-3300 ft) off the southeast coast between Florida and North Carolina. NOAA is proud to sponsor the broad collaboration of scientists working in this inaugural year of the program. Andy is the Line Office Diving Officer (LODO) for NOAA Fisheries, helping to set policies ensuring the safety and productivity for the NOAA Diving Program. While the LODO position requires many top-down activities, Andy also feels he is the advocate for the 200+ Fisheries divers making sure they have the equipment and support needed to conduct research from Alaska to Hawaii and Maine to Texas. Andy has a BS degree in Chemistry and Biology from Stetson University, a MS degree in Marine Science from the University of South Florida and is a PhD candidate with Florida State University.

R. Peyton Hale
Curator of Living Collections
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Raleigh, NC

Peyton works as a curator in the Terrestrial Vertebrates portion of the Educational Living Collections section. He’s been a part of the Museum since 2006 and assisted with various outreach programs within North Carolina. During the 2010 Deep Sea Coral mission, Peyton will assist Mike and the team of researchers in their daily tasks and will assist Art Howard as an additional photographer. Peyton has a BS in Zoology and a BS in Fisheries & Wildlife Sciences – Wildlife Concentration from North Carolina State University.

Art HowardArt Howard
Raleigh, NC

For 30 years, Emmy award winning photographer and producer Art Howard has helped viewers experience life through images from both poles and 24 countries. As a native North Carolinian this adventure will focus on issues closer to home. He will follow the researchers aboard the Seward Johnson documenting the challenges, discoveries and challenges of offshore reef exploration. Using the latest High Definition video equipment, Art will attempt to bring viewers as close as possible to life at sea from the surface to depths of 3000 feet, capturing both the scientists and the life they seek to understand. This is Howard’s sixth year as part of an ongoing project at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to help all better understand the connection between man and his environment.

Steven MatthewsSteven Matthews
NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service
Panama City, FL

Since 2001, Steve has been employed at the NOAA/National Marine Fisheries, Panama City Lab where he takes care of the diving locker systems and gear, as well as all the boats and associated hardware. Steve is a qualified welder and is experienced in deck and engineering duties and in the fabrication of underwater fixtures for cameras and fish collection devices. Retired US Navy Warrant Officer (Diver) with saturation experience to 1000 fsw.

Jennie McClain-CourtsJennie McClain-Courts
University of North Carolina at Wilmington
Wilmington, NC

Jennie graduated from UNCW in 2006 with a BS in Marine Biology and minor in Chemistry and in 2010 with a MS in Marine Science. Her thesis focused on the trophic structure of midwater fishes over cold seeps in the Gulf of Mexico, using stable isotopes (carbon and nitrogen) and stomach contents. Jennie has worked with Dr. Steve Ross since 2003. During that time, she completed an independent study on the ecology of Eumunida picta, a species of squat lobster inhabiting deep-sea Lophelia banks, and participated in numerous off shore cruises, logging over a 100 days at sea and four submersible dives. Her research interests also include the community structure of midwater fishes and the use of stable isotopes to elicit trophic relationships of deep-sea taxon.

Dr. Martha Nizinski
NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service National Systematics Laboratory
Washington, DC

Martha Nizinski is a zoologist for NOAA/NMFS National Systematics Laboratory, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC. Dr. Nizinski earned a BS in biology at West Virginia Wesleyan College, a MS in zoology at University of Maryland, and a PhD in marine science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, School of Marine Science, College of William and Mary. She has been employed by the Systematics Laboratory since 1987, first as a technician, then as a zoologist. After completion of her doctoral degree, Dr. Nizinski began her research program studying the biodiversity, biogeography, taxonomy, and systematics of marine invertebrates, particularly decapod crustaceans. Her current research interests include systematics, biodiversity, biogeography, and community structure of decapod crustaceans, and biodiversity and community structure of invertebrate fauna associated with deep-water coral reefs. Dr. Nizinski is the invertebrate specialist of the research team.

John ReedJohn Reed
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University
Fort Pierce, FL

John Reed is a Research Professor at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) at Florida Atlantic University and Principal Investigator for the Robertson Coral Reef Research and Conservation Program. His emphasis is research and conservation of deep and shallow water coral reefs, including deep water Lophelia and Oculina reefs, and shallow water reefs of the Caribbean, Bahamas and Florida. He has been Chief Scientist on 60 research expeditions over the past 30 years, visiting 40 countries, including Seychelles, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Galapagos Islands, Pearl Islands, Azores, Canaries, Cape Verde, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and throughout the Bahamas and Caribbean. He has utilized research vessels from HBOI, NOAA and NASA as platforms for manned submersibles, ROVs, and AUVs. John also heads the Collections and Taxonomy Department for the Biomedical Research Program. He is curator for HBOI’s museum of biomedical collections (>30,000 deep and shallow water marine organisms) and is manager of the submersible videotape and photographic archives. John is Diving Safety Officer for all diving activities by 50 HBOI research and commercial divers. John’s research on the deep water Oculina coral reefs off Florida since 1976 has resulted in the establishment of a 300 sq.mi. Oculina Coral Marine Protected Area, the first in the world to protect deep water coral. John‘s research on deep-water reefs began 33 years ago when he started at Harbor Branch for the Division of Marine Science. He has >100 publications, reports, and articles on worldwide research expeditions, deep sea coral reef research, and biomedical research. John received his BS from the University of Miami and MS, specializing in marine ecology, from Florida Atlantic University in 1975.

Mike RhodeMike Rhode
University of North Carolina at Wilmington
Wilmington, NC

Michael Rhode is a Coastal and Deep-sea Fisheries Research Technician with the Center for Marine Science at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He earned a BS in biology from Kutztown University, and a MS in marine studies from the University of Delaware, College of Marine Studies. His master’s project consisted of comparing the dynamics of the larval fish assemblages at two coastal Delaware inlets. Mike also spent three years at the Marine Science Consortium in Wallops Island, VA as the equipment manager, college coordinator, and first mate aboard their 47’ research vessel. On this cruise his responsibilities include night watch chief as well as assisting with gear management, data collection and fish identifications.

Dr. Brendan RoarkDr. Brendan Roark
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX

Dr. Brendan Roark is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and the Ocean Drilling and Sustainable Earth Sciences (ODASES) at Texas A&M University. Brendan is a paleoceanographer whose research emphasis is in stable isotope biogeochemistry, trace metal analyses, and geochronology using radiocarbon and U/Th dating methods to study ocean and climate variability over the last 50,000 years. He has been doing research on reconstructing past oceanographic and climate conditions using biogeochemical signals measured in the skeleton’s of deep-sea corals for more than seven years as part of his dissertation, post-doctoral and current research initiatives. In the course of this research we have demonstrated that some species of deep-sea corals can be extremely long lived; 2700 and 4200 years for Gerardia sp. and Leiopathes sp. respectively.

Jana ThomaJana Thoma
University of Louisiana-Lafayette
Lafayette, Louisiana

Jana Thoma has been “learning” her way across the southern United States. She earned her BS at Berry College located in North Georgia and her MS in Coastal Sciences at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. Jana is currently at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette working with Dr. Scott France to elucidate the evolutionary relationships among holaxonian deep-sea octocorals (e.g. sea fans, gorgonians). In particular, she is interested in evaluating the traditional classification of holaxonians using a combination of genetic and morphological characteristics. To date, she has examined numerous samples from northwestern Atlantic including the New England and Corner seamount chains and hard-substrates near Bermuda and the Bahamas. The addition of samples collected during this cruise from deep-sea coral habitats around the southern tip of Florida will be valuable for understanding the taxonomy and biogeography of these corals.

John TomczukJohn Tomczuk
NOAA Ocean Exploration and Research
Silver Spring, MD

John Tomczuk is the Coral Coordinator for NOAA’s Ocean Exploration and Research Program. He is a member of NOAA’s Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program advisory panel, and a co-author of the southeast regional science plan for the program’s 2009-2010 activities, which featured and sponsored the Extreme Corals Expedition. He will serve as scientist during ROV dive watches and play the important role of data manager for the handling of expedition datasets that will reside in NOAA archives.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Eric Pante permalink
    November 9, 2010 11:41 pm

    Bon Voyage, deep-sea explorers!

  2. Danielle Daugherty permalink
    February 11, 2011 8:06 pm

    Hey I’m Danielle Daugherty. Mrs. Owens tought me for a while. She is my favorite person ever!!! I left back in september or so.. Well Love the Site.. Bye!

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