Chat Online with NOAA Scientists June 14

We are Derek Sowers (NOAA seafloor mapping expert), Kasey Cantwell (NOAA ocean explorer), Cheryl Morrison (research geneticist, USGS), and Leslie Sautter (geologist, College of Charleston). We are joined by the Mission Team on board NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to answer your questions about our current expedition of Deep-Sea Habitats of the Southeast U.S. Continental Margin.

The remotely operated vehicle, Deep Discoverer (D2), will be used to image unexplored areas of the Blake Plateau, Blake Ridge, Blake Escarpment, submarine canyons offshore of North Carolina, submerged cultural heritage sites, areas predicted to be suitable habitat for deep sea corals and sponges, inter-canyon areas, and gas seeps. Image courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

From June 11- July 2, 2018, NOAA and partners will conduct an ocean exploration expedition on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to collect critical baseline information about unknown and poorly known deepwater areas in the Southeast U.S. Continental Margin. We will be conducting remotely operated vehicle dives and mapping operations. Our activities will be streamed live throughout the expedition.

We expect to encounter large, diverse coral and sponge communities; uncover important deep-sea ecosystems; explore historical shipwrecks; map the seafloor; and learn more about the geologic history of the area. Information collected during the expedition will expand our knowledge of these unknown and poorly known deepwater areas and to provide data for decision makers.

We’re here from 2 – 4 pm ET to answer your questions about our deep-ocean exploration missions.

Who: Derek Sowers (NOAA seafloor mapping expert), Kasey Cantwell (NOAA ocean explorer), Cheryl Morrison (research geneticist, USGS), and Leslie Sautter (geologist, College of Charleston)

When: Thursday, June 14, 2018 from 2 – 4 pm ET

Where: COMING SOON. A link to the Reddit AMA will be made available the morning of June 14th.


Kasey Cantwell, Expedition Coordinator, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, has a Master of Science degree in Marine Affairs and Policy and Marine Geology and Geophysics, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Science and Biology, both from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Kasey is responsible for coordinating telepresence-enabled expeditions conducted onboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. Since joining OER in 2012, she has coordinated over a dozen expeditions and projects, including multidisciplinary expeditions to the Atlantic submarine canyons, the Marianas, Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and Glacier Bay National Park. Beyond deep-sea exploration, Kasey’s background includes imagery-based mapping of coral reefs throughout the Caribbean, long-term ecosystem monitoring, and evaluating resource management strategies to improve efficiency and data quality.

Derek Sowers, Mapping Lead, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of New Hampshire and an M.S. in Marine Resource Management from Oregon State University. He has 14 years of previous coastal research and management experience, including work for NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve network and the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program in both Oregon and New Hampshire. Derek has participated in ocean research expeditions in the Arctic Ocean, Gulf of Maine, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Northwest continental shelf, North Atlantic Canyons, and New England Seamounts. During at-sea expeditions, Derek leads sonar data collection by planning the ship’s mapping routes and producing maps of seafloor and water column features to guide exploration. On shore, Derek works at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center at the University of New Hampshire to coordinate future mapping expeditions, process and archive data, and collaborate with other scientists. Derek is also a part-time Oceanography Ph.D. student focused on using Extended Continental Shelf and Okeanos Explorer data to develop marine ecological classification maps.

Dr. Cheryl Morrison, Expedition Co-science Lead (Biologist), USGS, is a Research Geneticist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Leetown Science Center in Kearneysville, West Virginia. She has always loved the ocean, from Maine tide pools to tropical coral reefs. She followed this passion through an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (1991), and a PhD from Florida State University in Biological Sciences (1997). Cheryl is interested in marine biodiversity and how diversity is generated and maintained by life history traits and physical oceanographic conditions that organisms experience. She has been studying cold water coral ecosystems for over a decade in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and has participated in 24 research cruises using submersibles and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to explore and characterize benthic habitats. Her current research involves the utilization of genetic and genomic techniques to aid in the study of biodiversity, population, and community structure at vulnerable deep-sea habitats (deep-sea corals, cold seeps, and canyons). During the mission, she will be co-science lead, helping to guide ROV dives, providing narrative regarding the biology observed, and interacting with shore-based scientists.

Dr. Leslie Sautter, Expedition Co-science Lead (Geologist), College of Charleston, has been teaching marine geology at the College of Charleston for over two decades. She earned her Ph.D. in Geology at the University of South Carolina and has a background in paleoceanography as well as coastal research and geoscience education. She is founder and director of the BEnthic Acoustic Mapping and Survey (BEAMS) Program which allows undergraduate students to conduct research using state-of-the-art seafloor mapping software. Leslie has been on many expeditions to study the seafloor geology and biota using ROVs and submersibles, and thoroughly enjoys taking students out to sea to provide experiential learning experiences. She continues to assist with development of education programming and web resources.