Gulf of California

Hydrothermal vent tube worms (Riftia sp.) in the Guaymas Basin of the Gulf of California. Photo courtesy of Dr. Mandy Joye.


 Our research investigates elemental cycling and hydrocarbon dynamics at deep sea hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. We explore the unique geochemical drivers and biological communities that form in association to the hydrocarbon inputs, and how these communities respond to perturbation.

The Gulf of California is an active young ocean undergoing early phases of rifting, seafloor spreading, and active hydrothermalism, and harbors striking hydrothermal vent and hydrocarbon seeps. Here, unique “amalgams” of geological and biogeochemical features, animal and microbial communities provide natural laboratories to study how seafloor processes shape the evolution, physiology, and activities of microbial and animal communities that mediate key geochemical reactions.

The Gulf of California is UNESCO World Heritage site and an area of global marine conservation significance. It extends from the Colorado River Delta in the north to southeast of the tip of the Baja California Peninsula. The Gulf covers 4,000 km of coastline and reaches depths of more than 3,000 meters. It harbors great marine biodiversity, including hundreds of species of fish, five sea turtles species, nesting and migratory birds, and several marine mammals. The critically endangered Vaquita porpoise only lives in the Gulf of California. Deep ocean trenches and nutrient-rich shallow seabeds support abundant phytoplankton and zooplankton, which provides nurseries for larval fish and the diverse marine food web. The area is challenged by many human activities, including excessive fisheries (artisanal, industrial and sport fishing), unregulated tourism, and coastal development (construction, pollution from agriculture, industry, and sewage.

In November 2018 our research team embarked on an expedition aboard the R/V Atlantis funded by the National Science Foundation to the Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California. Learn about our discoveries by checking out Dr. Joye's blog posts and photos from the cruise here.

In February 2019 we will embark on an expedition aboard the R/V Falkor operated by the Schmidt Ocean Institute to explore geochemical and microbiological characteristics of hydrothermal plumes and gas plumes and flares across the vent/seep gradient in the GOC. This expedition offers a unique opportunity to bring public attention to the GOC’s unique deep-sea ecosystems and the challenges that human impacts pose for the GOC.


November 16-28, 2018 aboard the Atlantis: On this expedition, researchers focused on the Guaymas Basin, located in the central area of the Gulf of California. They deployed in situ instrumentation at the seabed, collected bottom water, sediments and rock samples using the submarine ALVIN, and sampled the water column – searching for hydrothermal plumes – using the CTD/Niskin rosette. See more about the research done on this expedition here.

February 11 - March 15, 2019 aboard the Falkor: Coming soon!


Generation and untilization of volatile fatty acids and alchohols in hydrothermally altered sediments in the Guaymas Basin, Gulf of California. G-C Zhuang, A Montgomery, VA Samarkin, M Song, J Liu, F Schubotz, AP Teske, K-U Hinrichs, and SB Joye. Geophysical Research Letters, in press.

Social Media 

The best way to keep track of our activities is by following us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We will be primarily using the ECOGIG social media channels and the #microbialmysteries hashtag.

Facebook: @ecogig.outreach

Twitter: @DeepseaECOGIG

Instagram: @ecogig 

Scientists' Twitter Accounts:

Samantha (Mandy) Joye @seepexplorer

Peter Girguis @pgirguis

Nicole Dubilier @Chemosym



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