URI oceanographers on ship in South Pacific to host videoconference with students at Jamestown school, Dec. 9

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – December 7, 2010 – Three oceanography professors at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, who are now aboard a research ship in the South Pacific, will use videoconferencing technology to talk about their research with students at Lawn Avenue School and Melrose School in Jamestown on Dec. 9 at 10:15 a.m.

The videoconference will take place at the Melrose School, 76 Melrose Ave., Jamestown.

Professors Steven D’Hondt, David Smith and Art Spivack, will join the school’s sixth grade students on a virtual tour of the ship and participate in a question and answer session about the expedition.

Spivack, a resident of Jamestown, and Joe Monaco, a middle school teacher aboard the ship, organized the videoconference with Lawn Avenue School sixth grade science teacher Deborah Barone and Science and Math Scholars Project Manager Furhana DiBiase.

The international research expedition departed from Tahiti on Oct. 9 and traveled to the middle of the South Pacific Gyre – an area that is as far from any continent as is possible to go on Earth’s surface – to look for evidence of microbial life far beneath the seafloor. The expedition is a follow-up to a 2006/2007 visit to the same sites where the scientists found so few organisms living in the shallow sediment that this region may contain the least inhabited marine sediment ever explored. This region encompasses an area twice the size of North America.

“We don’t know anything about life in this deepest, oldest sediment,” said D’Hondt, the chief scientist on the expedition. “It could tell us about the possibility of life elsewhere. If organisms can survive there, then perhaps they can be supported by the same processes on Mars or Jupiter.”

The researchers are aboard the 469-foot JOIDES Resolution, a drilling shipping owned by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. The sediment cores they recover from the seafloor will be analyzed for their chemistry and microbial communities to detect evidence of life. The research team includes 100 scientists, technicians and crew from a dozen countries around the world.