2004 Report - Mid-Ocean Ridge Ecosystems

Six working group members participated in a two-day meeting : Dr Gebruk from Russia, F. Zal from France, Anna Metaxas from Canada and Dr Jung Ho Hyun from Korea and the 2 co-chairs, F Gaill from France and K Juniper from Canada. Paul Tyler from UK was unable to attend because of flight cancellations, while Manuel Biscoito of Portugal and Olav Giere of Germany sent apologies. There was no news from Tim Shank of the USA and Ken Takai of Japan. Colin Devey, the new chair of InterRidge from the University of Bremen participated in discussions during the second day of the meeting.

1) Planning
We began with introductions and a discussion of the various points to be considered over the course of the meeting.

2) 3rd vent biology symposium in 2005
The only formal pre-proposal received for the vent biology symposium was that of Horst Felbeck from Scripps in La Jolla, CA at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. This is included in Annex 2. He proposed to organize the meeting in La Jolla in September 2005 in association with two other scientists. Other groups had expressed interest over the past year in possibly hosting the symposium (Brazil, Canada, Russia) but none led to formal proposals. Dr Jung Ho Hyun mentioned that Korea was considering hosting the next symposium, in 2008.

3) Reports from represented countries
Russia : A major, long cruise was recently completed by the Russian scientists (about 6 months) linked with the Mar Eco program. The cruise was funded through film projects and there are plans to continue in this way in the future. Dr. Gebruck informed the meeting that when private companies fund cruises, about 20% of the time dive is devoted to science. A 2-year, round-the-world cruise is in the planning stage. Cooperation with D Desbruyeres of IFREMER is planned, with details to be determined by availability of ship time for science. This project will address some of the objectives of the ChEss program, including sampling of the Logatchev area, 13°N (EPR) along with the Equatorial belt of the Atlantic Ocean. Also planned are shallow water vent studies, in collaboration with Japanese, as well as dives to a very deep seep site (>7000m) with a Japanese ROV.

In addition to film-funded expeditions, it is also expected that funding of cruises through ecotourism will continue in the future. Korea : Korean biologists are just beginning studies of hydrothermal vents. Initial focus will be on on biotechnological applications. They are interested in collaborative programs with other countries. France : Several European programmes are funded by the EC : one is the Exocet strep program funding various instrumentation projects; Momarnet is a network funding PHD fellowships and post-doc positions.

The French Ridge program DORSALES is no longer funded by the INSU CNRS and IFREMER. This year IFREMER has its own Dorsales program. INSUE (CNRS geo and life Science joined) will create 2 steering committees : one to link with InterRidge even though there is no longer a Dorsales program, and another one for the MOMAR project. Biologists will ask to the Life Sciences division of CNRS to fund a joint research project with IFREMER. Canada : Funding for the 4-year CanRidge program finishes this year and emphasis of Canadian ridge research will likely shift to observatory programs such as the NEPTUNE cabled observatory on the Juan de Fuca plate. Funding has been secured for the Canadian contribution to NEPTUNE, which is a joint program with the US. The main trunk cable for NEPTUNE is presently scheduled to be installed in 2008. Testing of methods and technology will begin in 2004 using two near-shore cabled observatories, VENUS on the Pacific coast and the Bonne Bay observatory on the Atlantic coast. Kim Juniper presented a brief overview of these projects.

4) Discussion on the next Decade Science Plan
The group discussed the seven points of the IR Next Decade plan, six of which contained biological objectives : 1. Ultraslow Ridges (SWIR and arctic ridges) 2. Ridge hotspot interactions (no specific biological questions mentioned in this section of the plan) 3. Back-Arc spreading systems 4. Mid ocean Ridge ecosystems 5. Monitoring and observatories 6. Deep earth sampling 7. Global exploration

5) What is the position of the working group with regard to biological questions in the Next Decade document?
The group discussed the point that initiatives for comparative study of hydrothermal vents and cold seeps are now being led by the ChEss program. The group then discussed the need to consolidate the various biological questions found in the Next Decade plan, into a single overview document. This was followed by discussion of whether or not microbiological questions were within the mandate of the biology working group, which had traditionally focused on macrobiology. There are several major microbiological questions in the Next Decade plan. Discussion then turned to concerns about a need to encourage the training of new taxonomists who will be central to future studies of biodiversity. The group then proposed that a session and possibly a practical workshop on taxonomy be included in the program of the 2005 hydrothermal vent biology symposium.

6) What are the major new findings in vent biology since the last vent symposium?
We had a brief round the table exchange about what we thought were the major new findings in vent biology since the previous symposium: Kim proposed the discovery of extensive hydrothermal activity on the Gakkel Ridge, Anna Metaxas pointed out important advances in larval biology and ecology, which will continue to be important of the next few years. Gebruck pointed out a recent biogeographical synthesis, published only in Russian, that shows that, at a global scale, vent biogeography is subject to the same oceanographic constraints as the biogeography of other abyssal organisms. Franck Zal emphasized progress in understanding the importance of chemical constraints on adaptations of vent organisms and F Gaill underlined that the genome sequencing of the Riftia symbionts is a major result that will be achieved within the next year.

7) Discussion of the Code of Conduct project
A. Gebruck pointed out that ecotourism is of little direct threat to hydrothermal vent sites since the submersible pilots operating the tourist dives are the same pilots working on Russian scientific cruises. Also, the Titanic wreck is a far more important tourist attraction that are hydrothermal vents. In introducing a revised draft of the Code, Kim Juniper pointed out that the original reason for developing the Code was to reduce or avoid potential use conflicts, such as those between « physiologists » requiring animals for analysis and ecologists which are interested in observations without collection. He suggested that this be the primary focus for the Code. He also pointed out that the purpose of the Code should be to develop an ethic, citing the example of dives funded in 2004 by the US National Science Foundation to recover litter and expired experiments at the Endeavour Segment hydrothermal fields. (See the annex document). One point mentioned in the Code is the need to reduce the impact of sampling at heavy use sites by encouraging the development of microanalytical procedures, and alternatives to sampling such as the use of imagery and acoustics.

Actions for further progress in the Code of Conduct
• Finish a draft before the end of February
• Circulate and discuss within the working group
• Forward new draft to the IR steering committee members to request input prior to the May 2005 meeting in Korea.
• Presentation of a final draft at the IR Steering Committee meeting in Korea in May, with a request for formal adoption.

News of the new IR office in Bremen
As usual it always difficult to transfer all the organisation from one country to another one but Colin is optimistic about the future. He provided an update on the organisation of the new office: a coordinator position will soon be filled and a second position may be obtained in the future. DRidge is funded now and Germany has a new ROV which is actually working in the Atlantic Ocean. Two sites will be studied in the future in the southern Atlantic Ocean . Colin circulated a copy of a proposal by N Le Bris for a new working group on biogeochemistry. All members recognized the interest of the proposal and agreed that this is clearly outside of the mandate of the biology working group.

The Chess program
As previously discussed, the ChEss program has assumed active leadership for questions related to the biogeography of vent organisms. The group agreed that there was no point in InterRidge maintaining a separate data base of vent organism distribution since a more complete data base on chemosynthetic habitats was being developed by ChEss. The new InterRidge office will be asked to contact the ChEss office to integrate the IR data base into the ChEss data base.

Third biology symposium in La Jolla The group discussed the organization of the next hydrothermal vent biology symposium in La Jolla. Usually the host has the responsibility for forming the scientific committee, although this is usually done in relationship with the working group. Since the group was mandated by the InterRidge STCOM to solicit proposals for the symposium, Horst Felbeck was contacted immediately after the meeting to confirm acceptance of his proposal.

The working group will be proposing to the STCOM that InterRidge offer 3 student paper awards at the symposium. One for Best Student Oral Presentation, another for Best Student Poster, and a third for Best Student Presentation in Classical Taxonomy. The latter, new for this symposium, is in recognition of the need to encourage the development of a new generation of taxonomists, to replace an aging and diminishing cohort of taxonomists. During our discussion of the Scripps proposal and other InterRidge Biology activities, working group members developed a couple of ideas for activities that could be connected to the symposium. Both suggestions were communicated to the symposium organizers for final decision:

1. A half-day forum on micro-analysis and in situ instrumentation that could come in the middle of the week. - biologists are somewhat lagging behind other disciplines in developing automated and in situ techniques that can be used at seafloor observatories. To encourage our community to move forward, we thought it might be timely to invite 4 speakers for a half-day forum to speak about new technologies and approaches relevant to vent biologists. Suggested topics are below : ...Imaging and acoustics ...Micro-array technology ...Chemical sensors ...Automated in situ sampling
2. A full-day practical workshop for students that could follow the symposium. - members saw the symposium as a unique occasion to offer advanced hands-on training to students. Two half-day workshops were proposed : ...Taxonomy and biogeography proposed by A Gebruck...Physiology proposed by F. Zal
3. A presentation of the activities of our working group including a discussion on the Code of Conduct