JC010: Mud volcanoes and submarine canyons


Meet...Jeroen Ingels, PhD student

Jeroen at work in the lab...

...and relaxing in the library

Jeroen is a PhD student at Ghent University in Belgium. He just started the 3rd year of his PhD and is studying deep-sea meiofauna in Portuguese canyons within the HERMES project, in particular free-living nematodes. He studied an MSc Biology at Ghent University and after that finished his MSc in Marine and Lacustrine Sciences, also at Ghent University. During the latter, he was very keen on doing deep-sea research. Since the Marine Biology Lab in Ghent has a good reputation concerning meifauna and nematodes, this seemed the obvious path to follow. He believes that you start a PhD with a certain basic interest and enthusiasm that only increases as one goes along. At least, that is what happened in his case.

During this cruise Jeroen is on board to do an in-situ experiment on the seabed at about 3500m depth in the Nazaré canyon. The idea is to feed nematodes a range of different kinds of food to unravel wether there is a particular source they feed on and if there are any differences compared to nematodes living on the slope. The food he serves the little critters is labeled (diatoms and bacteria), that means it has a tracer (13C isotope) which you can follow in the food chain. Basically, the statement: “you are what you eat” is very apropriate here.

While the Nazaré canyon has no direct riverine input, it acts as a huge trap for organic material. It is possible that, because of the very high influx of organic material, that the nematodes in the canyon feed in a different way than nematodes in other types of environments. Next to this he hopes to get new samples from the Portuguese canyons to amend his existing database.


An example of the type of nematode studied by Jeroen

Up till now the experiment has been deployed onto the seafloor and the first sampling has been carried out. There will be two more sampling sessions, one during this cruise and one at the beginning of the 3rd leg. This is to have a time series, in order to see if uptake changes through time. Next to this, several push cores have been taken to look at community structure and environmental variables, i.e. to see how many and what kind of nematodes live down there and to figure out if the amount of organic material, pigments in the sediment, and grain size has an effect on the residing community. By doing this scientists might get an idea on what drives and maintains the diversity within these canyons.

Sub sampling of the experimental unit with push core after one day

Lander with experimental units and San Francisco Charlie

I asked him what drives him in his research, and he answered: “Mainly curiosity, I think that every researcher should be very curious, in order to find the right answers to the questions and problems a researcher wants to see resolved. Curiosity certainly keeps me going.”

PS...During the deployment of Jeroen’s experiment there was a cute teddy bear called San Fransisco Charlie that went to the deep blue, securely fastened to the lander. The first teddy to have visited the Nazaré canyon? He´s back on board now, safe and happy and apparently he loved it down there (see photo, above far right).

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