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Seminar 9

“Future of Planet Earth” Participant Biography

Paris, France | June 3–5, 2008

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John R. Delaney

John Delaney is Professor of Oceanography and holds the Jerome M. Paros Endowed Chair in Sensor Networks at the University of Washington. Since 1997, he has directed development of the regional cabled ocean observatory in the northeast Pacific Ocean that evolved into the Regional Scale Nodes program within the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Observatories Initiative. This distributed, remote, sensor-robotic network will convert a sector of the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate and overlying ocean into an internationally accessible, interactive, real-time natural laboratory capable of reaching millions of users via the Internet. Such networks are at the leading edge of ocean and earth science research and education.

Delaney, who joined the University of Washington faculty in 1977, has published more than 160 scientific papers and articles, and has served as chief scientist on more than 45 oceanographic research cruises, many of which have included the Deep Submergence Vehicle Alvin and the Remotely Operated Vehicle Jason. In September 2005, he co-led the VISIONS’05 research expedition, which successfully broadcast the first-ever live, high-definition video from the seafloor across the world. Scientists, educators, and the general public viewed the real-time broadcasts from the underwater volcanoes of the NE Pacific over cable and satellite television and on the web via the ResearchChannel.

His research focuses on the deep-sea volcanic activity of the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the northeast Pacific Ocean. In the summer of 1998, Delaney led a joint expedition with the American Museum of Natural History to successfully recover four volcanic sulfide structures now on display in AMNH’s Hall of the Planet Earth. This US/Canadian effort was the subject of a NOVA/PBS and a BBC documentary entitled Volcanoes of the Deep. Samples collected on this expedition produced the highest-temperature microbes ever cultured on Earth. Some hypotheses link these deep-sea volcanic systems to the origin of life on Earth.

In 1987, Delaney served as the first Chairman of the RIDGE Program and initial Co-chairman of the international InterRIDGE. Both programs were designed to foster intensive studies of the physical, chemical, and biological interactions that characterize the vigorous volcanic and hydrothermal activity along the 70,000-kilometer mid-ocean ridge system. These programs, still active today, have channeled hundreds of millions of dollars into research and education about processes that support exotic life forms sustained through chemosynthesis driven by plate tectonics several kilometers below sea level. Delaney has served on several NASA Committees charged with defining the nature of missions to Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, suspected to harbor both a liquid ocean and submarine volcanoes.