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NE Pacific Ocean

Dr. Michael Brennan, Chief Scientist

Mike Brennan
Liz Smith / Ocean Exploration Trust

Since coming aboard Nautilus, I’ve been struck by how well everyone seems to know his or her job. Whether someone is a navigator, a pilot, a mapping specialist, educator, or a scientist, everyone works really well as a team because everyone can depend on everyone else to do their job REALLY well.  While on watch in the control van, the chief scientist directs the motions of the entire group and ensures that we continue to move towards goals that are interesting, attainable and valuable for science. I had a chance to meet up with Dr. Michael Brennan, the chief scientist for the Black Sea leg of our expedition, to find out what motivates and engages him most about Nautilus, the chemistry of Black Sea sediment, and shipwrecks.

Eric: Mike! Tell me about how you found your way onto Nautilus.

Mike: I first met Dr. Ballard when I was ten. My mother taught the JASON curriculum as an after school club throughout middle school and high school – I was homeschooled through elementary school and my mother thought that the JASON curriculum was great. Believe it or not, I ended up as a JASON Argonaut and joined the JASON Project VIII in Yellowstone.

Eric: How did this translate to Nautilus?

Mike: I ended up going to Bowdoin College in Maine for Geology and Archaeology and wrote a letter to Dr. Ballard to try to keep in touch. In my senior year, I got an email from Bob saying that he had started up a new program in URI and wanted someone with my types of background to join him. I started working with him 2004 in graduate school and have been with him every since. When Nautilus started up in 2009, I was on board the whole time (only a six-week program that year). In 2010, I was chief scientist for a few of the legs and it was the first year that we went live on the website.

Eric:  What aspect of our current leg is the most exciting for you and why?

Mike: My research for this leg is looking at the transition from the highly oxygenated water on the surface of the Black Sea and the oxygen-poor waters in the deeper parts of the Black Sea.   The suboxic zone between these two layers has not really been well documented or characterized. We’re looking at CTD (conductivity/temperature/depth), dissolved oxygen, and sediment cores to better understand this transition layer. We’re also looking at shipwrecks in our studies; by studying how shipwrecks decompose in the different layers tells us about the type of processes that are active in the different layers of the Black Sea.

Eric:  What’s the best part of your job?

Mike: More than anything, I love exploring a new target – whether it’s new biology, geology, or archaeology. I love knowing that in some cases we’re the first people to see these features.

I think we all share that excitement of discovery with you. That’s why we love tuning in, too. For more information about the different layers of the Black Sea, check out the Recent Videos section of the Nautilus Live website!