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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Biogeochemical cycling in hydrothermal settings south of the Antarctic Polar Front

Currently Active: 
Yes

Hydrothermal activity and associated ecosystems south of the Antarctic polar front (i.e. East Scotia Ridge and Central Bransfield Basin) have been investigated during multidisciplinary expeditions as part of the ChEsSo project. These studies have led to the discovery of extensive venting ans dense chemosynthetic communities on segments E2 and E9 of the East Scotia Ridge. In the Central Bransfield Basin, diffuse hydrothermal discharge was observed on a sediment-hosted volcanic edifice situated on the central rift axis, but recognizable vent fauna were not observed.

Black smoker chimneys spewing high temperature fluids on the E9 segment of the East Scotia Ridge. ROV ISIS titanium sampler shown
Hydrothermal vents

East Scotia Ridge

Systematic surveying and extensive sampling of black smokers on segments E2 and E9 of the East Scotia Ridge (ESR) was carried out using the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) ISIS. The aims of this study include:

  1. Understanding the microbial and faunal diversity and community structures.
  2. Describing the chemistry underpinning these unique ecosystems.
  3. Understanding (bio)geochemical cycling in this setting

 

Sediment cores collected during RRS James Cook cruise 55. Water Depths: Core MC7 = 1174m, MC16 = 1040, Hook ridge background core = 1150 m.
Map of sediment coring stations

Central Bransfield Basin

In contrast to the ESR, the Central Bransfield Strait is a sedimented basin where hydrothermal activity has been recorded on volcanic edifices along the central rift axis. ChEsSO cruise JC55 recovered metalliferous sediment from the volcanic feature known as Hook Ridge.

Current work is directed towards understanding changes in concentration and isotopic distributions of (trace) metals within the sediment. These processes appear to be biologically-mediated. In collaboration with microbiologists, the microbial community structures in these sediments is being determined.

Key Contacts

Prof. Rachel Mills (Principal Investigator)

Dr. Alfred Aquilina (Post Doctoral Researcher)
Ms. Laura Hepburn (PhD Student)

PhDs and Other Opportunities

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Associated research themes

Volcanic Processes

Hydrothermal Processes and Mineral Deposits

Formation and Evolution of the Ocean Crust

Related research groups

Geochemistry
Marine Biogeochemistry
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