MarVeL Workshop catalyzes new international collaborations for studies of connectivity between deep-sea vents
Summary submitted to 2012 InterRidge News
Despite three decades of research on deep-sea hydrothermal vents, larval dispersal and population connectivity between these discrete and extreme habitats remain poorly understood. Connectivity, which occurs on time scales of one to several generations, is what ultimately drives the biogeography of the species endemic to hydrothermal vents. Understanding connectivity between vents requires expertise from multiple disciplines, including biology, physical oceanography, and the geo-sciences. The Mariana Vent Larvae (MarVeL) Workshop: International Study of Connectivity Between Hydrothermal Vents was held 10-11 May 2012 in Okinawa, Japan, at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) (http://marvelworkshop.whoi.edu). The workshop was convened by Stace Beaulieu (WHOI), Satoshi Mitarai (OIST), and Hiromi Watanabe (JAMSTEC) and funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF Grant #1157556) and OIST. Two main objectives of the workshop were to: 1) Share state-of-the-art methods and data for studies of larval dispersal and population connectivity of deep-sea vent fauna in regions currently being investigated by U.S., Japanese, and other PIs, and 2) Develop a coordinated research plan to study connectivity between hydrothermal vents in the western Pacific, specifically considering the Mariana arc and back-arc.
Workshop participants were recruited by the conveners with an aim to balance disciplinary interests and nationalities, and special consideration was given to early career researchers including postdocs and students. The workshop had a total of 35 participants (18 Japan, 14 U.S., 2 Canada, 1 France) and an additional 5 participants via EVO web conferencing (2 U.S., 1 Japan, 1 France, 1 Korea). This total of 40 participants includes 13 postdocs and students who received training and guidance for effective collaboration with researchers from diverse backgrounds. One of the postdocs, S. Arellano, said, “It was really valuable to meet the many other researchers from around the U.S., France, Canada, and Japan. The small workshop setting gave me a chance to talk to many researchers in a way that I wouldn’t be able to if we were at a larger conference.” This was especially true for non-native English speaking students to be involved in international activity. In addition, the opening introduction to OIST by R. Baughman, Provost, showed that our workshop played a role in building marine science capacity in Okinawa.
The workshop consisted of 8 sessions, with each geared towards linking disciplinary components of Earth systems (e.g., lithosphere-biosphere linkage). Goals for Day 1 included introductions, reviewing previous interdisciplinary studies of larval dispersal between hydrothermal vents, and starting to develop research questions to be addressed in the Mariana region. Goals for Day 2 included continuing review of previous studies, specifying research questions to be addressed in the Mariana region, considering Mariana vents in the context of a network of marine protected areas, and planning field work. To fulfill the objective of sharing state-of-the-art research, most sessions included two “keynote” presentations and brief “spotlight” talks with a balance of U.S. and Japanese speakers. Chart paper with a general question was posted at the end of each session for participants to respond to during the breaks. Many of the participants also displayed posters. Additional sharing occurred during informal exchanges including excursions to Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium and Manzamo Cliff.
In the final session we discussed multiple funding opportunities within the U.S. (NSF, NOAA, private), Japan, France, and Canada and compiled a list of planned, proposed, and potential cruise opportunities in the Mariana region. We discussed potential multi-disciplinary studies of connectivity between Mariana vents to include benthic and larval biology, geology and geochemistry, and oceanography. Much of this discussion involved differences among seamounts on the arc and vent sites along the back-arc. Discussion also included the larger spatial scale context of connectivity with Okinawa Trough and Izu-Bonin Arc vents. Our discussions generated momentum towards plans for research proposals that would involve international collaborations. Since the workshop, participants have submitted two Japanese cruise proposals that include larval collections near Mariana vents in 2013 and pre-proposals to the NSF Frontiers in Earth Systems Dynamics program and Schmidt Ocean Institute targeting shiptime in 2014/2015.
As a member of the InterRidge arc/back-arc systems working group, Watanabe will continue to engage other international colleagues in important discussions on connectivity between vents in these tectonic settings. The relationships between geological features of arc-backarc sequence and connectivity will provide useful knowledge to understand larval dispersal in the western Pacific vent fields. Additional outreach activities for the workshop included a news article at OIST (21 May 2012, “MarVeL Workshop Takes Aim at Cross-Ocean Connections,” http://www.oist.jp/news-center/news) and an interview by NHK (Japanese public television).