NOAA-USGS Stepping Stones 2021 Expedition

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Detailed Description

Join USGS researchers Jason Chaytor and Kira Mizell as they virtually participate in a NOAA Ocean Exploration expedition to the depths of the North Atlantic.

The 2021 North Atlantic Stepping Stones: New England and Corner Rise Seamounts expedition runs from June 30 to July 29. At-sea and shore-based science teams will study deep-water habitats in the high seas, which are among the least understood ecosystems on Earth. Researchers use remotely operated vehicles to explore seamounts (steep underwater mountains) all without getting wet! View a livestream from the expedition.

USGS scientists Jason Chaytor and Kira Mizell are the expedition’s geology science leads. From land, they will work with a team to develop the dive plans, lead and narrate the dives for a world-wide audience, and coordinate science outcomes. This video highlights the collaboration between USGS and NOAA scientists as they explore the largely unmapped seafloor.

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Date Taken:

Length: 00:03:45

Location Taken: US

Video Credits



Opening screen: The 2021 North Atlantic Stepping Stones Expedition, led by NOAA and partners, including USGS, is currently underway. 


Researchers aboard the NOAA Ship Oceans Explorer are using remote-operated vehicles to explore deep-sea mountains and canyons far offshore. 



Voice of Rhian Waller: We are about 270 miles northeast of Bermuda, which is about 435 kilometers. 


We're doing a true exploration dive today, looking at these completely unmapped and unseen-before seamounts. 


Voice of Jason Chaytor: As Rhian said, this is all-new exploration, so we're seeing this for the first time. 


Text: Following COVID protocol, USGS scientists Jason Chaytor of Woods Hole Coastal & Marine Science Center and Kira Mizell of the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center are assisting from shore, providing expertise on marine geology. We caught up with them via Teams. 


Peter: Would you mind both just introducing yourselves and giving a little bit of background as 

to what you do and what sort of expertise you lend to the NOAA cruise. 


Jason: My name is Jason Chaytor. I'm a research geologist here with the U.S. Geological Survey up in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, at the Coastal & Marine Center there.  


I spend all of my time working on marine geohazards: submarine landslides, tsunamis, earthquakes. 


Kira: I'm Kira Mizell. I'm a research oceanographer at the Pacific Coastal & 

Marine Science Center out in Santa Cruz for the USGS. 


And complementary to Jason, I study more the marine mineral deposits that are forming in the deep ocean, a lot of times on these big features that Jason knows a lot about. They tend to precipitate from seawater over time and record ocean chemistry and accumulate lots of different elements, so my role in the NOAA Ocean Exploration cruise is to look at these big seamounts, the New England Seamonunts and the Corner Rise Seamounts offshore of the northeastern U.S. and see the mineral distribution there, how the sediments are distributed, and then of course always the biological life that's co-habitating with the minerals. It's always fun working with collaborators to help think about how the minerals might influence the biology living there. 


Voice of Kira: In one zoom you can see this amazing fish, as well as all of this 

old coral rubble covered in ferro-manganese. and some rocks that have been dropped here from some distance away. 


Kira: The things that we can see from the video are lots of things that Jason is a real expert at: seafloor morphology, meaning, How did that seamount get there? How has it changed over time? 


When we're looking at the seafloor video, we can get a lot of information about the geologic setting, some of the bigger-picture things. And then for individual rocks, we can look at textures on the surface. So we get a lot of contextual clues from the video, and then it's once we get them back on the ship, we can take a closer look, and then once we get them back on shore, we can cut them, grind them up, use lots of different analytical techniques to see how old they are, what's their chemical makeup. 


Peter: What's the bigger picture? Why are you guys excited about being involved on this Ocean Exploration? 


Kira: I think, on a bigger level for USGS it's wonderful that Jason and I are able work together from two different centers on opposite coasts, getting to do interagency work with NOAA and partnering with them and utilizing the awesome tools that they have. 


Jason: You know, having the opportunity to really collaborate on stuff like this is really valuable. 


There's a lot of complementary experience and knowledge. Because there's too much work for us all to do it alone. 


Kira: (laughing) Absolutely. 


Credits: Footage from the 2021 North Atlantic Stepping Stones Expedition courtesy of NOAA 


Video by Peter Pearsall/USGS