Arrgh! Hello thar ye Deep-Sea scurvy. My name is Kevin Zelnio and it is my great pleasure to be a part of the Deep Sea News team and a member of the ScienceBlogs network. I’ve read DSN for a while, before I knew what a blog was. I always thought it was a news website for the deep-sea. The inclusion of ‘News’ into the title of the blog is important. Craig and Peter feel like they have an obligation to report on the happenings of the deep-sea, often before they are made known in more traditional media outlets, and without regard to any specific scientific discipline. They have set strict standards for themselves and the quality of their articles are high in my opinion. This is in part why DSN has gathered an enormous readership over the last year. I hope that I can measure up these standards and provide the quality content you, as readers, have come to expect from this news blog (nog?).
Let me introduce myself a little bit and then we’ll get to some new and interesting deep sea posts!
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Unlike Craig and Peter, I can with certainty say that I never ‘knew’ I was ever go to be a marine biologist as a kid. It wasn’t in my vocabulary coming form land-locked Iowa. Between veterinarian and firefighter, one time a pilot, science was never really on my horizon either. By the time junior high school and high school came around, I was certain I was going to be rockstar! Eventually, after several years of trying in various parts of the USA I decided to go to college as a last resort. I ended up in Monterey, CA (because its awesome!) and went to community college there. I volunteered at the Monterey Bay Aquarium while there and along with snorkel trips with my wife to Hawai’i, I became very interested in marine biology. When I transfered to the University of California – Davis, I cemented my education in marine ecology, invertebrate zoology and geology. Umpteen years later, I’m still a rockstar, at least in my own mind. In the final year of my undergraduate education, I received a life-changing amazing opportunity to go on a month long deep-sea hydrothermal vent cruise. It was headed by the Field Museum and centered around collections and documenting new fauna, but I would be going with my geology professors to help them with operating the towed camera system (towcam) and assisting in the biological activities I could stomach. I ate it all up and, needless to say, the experience was amazing. I am still working today with many of the researchers from that cruise.
Being a marine biologist is one thing, but being a deep-sea biologist is a whole sub-niche of the field. Its very challenging. Work must be done inside a submersible or with robotic/autonomous vehicles. It forces you to be creative and opportunistic at times. Someone once said that deep sea biologists were among the most resourceful scientists. All we need is a fresh roll of duct tape, some cable ties and a bungee cord and you got yourself a whole experimental design. I can fashion spare parts for my collection equipment from leftover PVC pipe and know a hundred and one uses for electrical tape (including sealing off specimen jars).
My academic interests lie in community ecology at hydrothermal vents and methane seeps. I am also very interested in the systematics of marine invertebrates from these areas and am describing several new species of anemone and a shrimp. I’ve written about my dissertation before here, here, here, here, here, and here, so I won’t elaborate on it any further as it covers my whole dissertation. I am in my final year of a PhD program in Biology at Penn State. There, I’ve said it. Now lets get back to business!