The University of Washington School of Oceanography particularly attracts me because it combines high-quality teaching (on a university campus adjacent to the sea) with exciting research into the nature of submarine, hydrothermal, vent systems. I am eager to receive a comprehensive oceanographic education while considering the panoply of fundamental topics involved in the study of vent systems: the nature of plate tectonics, the origin of life, the dynamics of global change, the power of volcanoes, and the yet unfathomed mysteries of the deep sea. That these topics are pondered by an interdisciplinary community of scientists with an unusual spirit of collaboration (in a city with the highest per capita sailboat density in the United States) is simply inspirational! I am ready to participate at sea, in the laboratory or library, as a teacher, and through my course work.
Every opportunity I have had to work close to the ocean has reinforced my enthusiasm for oceanography. At OSU I pioneered a scanning reflectance spectroscope for on-board analysis of deep-sea sediment core mineralogy and was impressed by how much the sea floor strata could reveal about the Earth's past; I launched radiosondes from the deck of a Chinese ship during the TOGA/COARE in the western equatorial Pacific and grew intrigued by the complexity, power, and myriad forms of the ocean-atmosphere interface; rolling 94 feet above the Atlantic swell, I sat elated atop the main mast of the tall ship Shenandoah and reincarnated my limey side! And when I considered the possibility of detecting surface expressions of global, submarine volcanism from space with the TOPEX/POSEIDON radar altimeter, I began to sense the intrigue of hydrothermal vent systems: their inaccessibility, their unique geological position, and their unusual biology.
I plan to devote my graduate studies to marine geology and geophysics, but I want to nurture interdisciplinary insights simultaneously. Consider, for example, the variety of methods which might reveal the historical dynamics of hydrothermal activity and magmatic processes beneath the vents on the Juan de Fuca Ridge/East Pacific Rise spreading center. A three-dimensional search for polymetallic sulfides in offset cores from the abyssal Pacific might provide a well- constrained temporal and spatial record of vent location --and even propagation-- along the ridge axis. Complementary information could be provided by genetic and paleoecological analyses of hydrothermal vent organisms (both extant and fossilized), and subsequent scrutiny of biogeographic theory. Further, it may be possible to use archived satellite data from thermal sensors or altimeters to map and monitor global surface expressions of hydrothermal vent phenomena, like the megaplumes recently detected in the northeastern Pacific.
While submarine hydrothermal vent systems may not be affected by burgeoning humanity, they influence aspects of the Earth which are important to humans. They build the plates which subduct beneath Seattle; they foster ancient and perhaps ancestral life; they exchange diverse chemicals and heat between the lithosphere and the deep sea --maybe even affecting climate. Only with a thorough understanding of how the planet changes without humans can science begin to assess anthropogenic impacts. I have already learned much from Dr. Delaney's virtual tour of the seafloor, Dr. Baross's "bugs," and Dr. McDuff's orientation to the Volcano Systems Center. In the wake of the sailors and scientists who have plumbed the changing depths for millennia, I look forward to continuing the soundings through an invigorating apprenticeship in science.