During the 2001 Extreme expedition, University of Delaware scientists working with Amersham Biosciences succeeded in conducting the first DNA sequencing experiments ever carried out while at sea. They were able to sequence just under 2 million base pairs of DNA from different microbes and organisms that live in and around the vents.
Cary said "Extreme 2003: To the Depths of Discovery" will involve 23 scientists from nine institutions, with 18 scheduled dives.
Cary will continue studies of the Pompeii worm and, specifically, genomic studies of the bacteria that live on the back of the worm. This work is funded through the National Science Foundation Biocomplexity in the Environment priority area and involves chemists, geochemists and microbiologists.
Cary will be doing additional work on the worm itself, which lives "in a very dynamic thermal and chemical gradient," with one end living in extremely hot water and one in very cold water. He will be studying the genes expressed in the head and the tail, which will be the first time such research has been completed at sea.
Scientists also will be studying the bacteria that colonize vents early in their development in comparison to the bacteria that inhabit the vents as they mature. Also, there will be an attempt to bring living Pompeii worms to the surface using a pressurized aquarium.
The 2003 expedition is also supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sea Grant Program, the Public Broadcasting System's WHYY-TV12 and the University of Delaware.
More than 45,000 students from nearly 600 schools worldwide are participating in the project. Students represent all but one of the 50 states, as well as the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zeala
Contact: Cheryl Dybas
National Science Foundation