Our Deep-Sea Treasure

As we transit between sites, I find myself reflecting on my first year of graduate school. When I was offered a graduate student position with Dr. Hamdan, I was told that my thesis work would use linear transects extending from shipwrecks to focus on investigating the biodiversity of sediment microbiomes surrounding them. At that time, I had little idea of what that would entail, but I knew I was excited to work on such a unique project. As I began to dive into my work, I learned about the shipwrecks, sediment microbiomes, and deep-sea habitats. I also realized that I’ve been entrusted with a daunting dataset: data collected over 5 years on 5 cruises at 5 shipwreck sites amounting to over 500 samples that will undergo sequencing and a litany of geochemical and physical properties analyses.


When sitting at my computer thinking about the appropriate ways to process the dataset, it’s easy to forget about the immense work that went into sample collection. Being able to participate in some of these cruises has given me a reality check and opened my eyes to the amount of planning, time, and effort that goes into each and every sample. The process of deploying and recovering the multi-corer, extruding the cores into tubes, and then sampling the cores has caused me to treat each sample with care and respect.

core extrusion.jpg

As we collect the final samples that will complete the transects, there is excitement every time the multi-corer comes on deck filled with our deep-sea treasure. Seeing the holes in our dataset disappear has given me a motivational kick to keep pursuing and tackling the difficult questions that the samples pose to us. When we return to land, I’m excited to squeeze every ounce of information out of these samples to try to uncover the story they will tell us about how these amazing cultural and scientific artifacts impact the seafloor.

  • Melissa Brock