Deborah Kelley

My research focuses on understanding process linkages among active submarine volcanoes, hydrothermal vents, and the life that they support. I am the Associate Director of Science for the underwater cabled component of the National Science Foundation's Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) known as the Regional Scale Nodes (RSN). I have participated on over 30 blue water research expeditions and routinely use robotic vehicles that include the ROV's ROPOS and Jason; I have been on >50 dives in the three person submersible Alvin to depths of 12,000 feet. Most of my work focuses on hydrothermal systems at along the Juan de Fuca Ridge at Axial Volcano and the Endeavour Segment, and on the novel Lost City Hydrothermal Field that I helped discover in 2000.Lost City is a remarkable system with conditions never before seen in the marine environment. Here, limestone chimneys that rise over 180 feet above the surrounding seafloor, vent pH11 fluids rich in hydrogen and methane, as well as other abiotic hydrocarbons. The field has been active for at least 150,000 years.

The RSN is an exciting project that includes installation of ~900 km of high power and bandwidth fiber optic cables on the seafloor. Key sites off the Pacific Northwest coast are being instrumented with >100 seafloor and water column sensors that will provide real-time data on earthquakes, ocean acidification, climate change, an active underwater volcano, methane seeps and life in the extreme environments of hydrothermal vents.All data, high definition video, and digital still images will be available to the global audience over the Internet in real-time.

One of the things I am most passionate about is providing students and young researchers the opportunity to participate directly in sea-going research. In 2013, we took 20 students to sea with us on the VISIONS'13 expedition. The cruise involved the UW global class research ship the R/V Thomas G Thompson and the ROV ROPOS. During the 47-day cruise students worked side by side scientists, engineers and the ROPOS team. I co-teach this annual summer class (Ocean 411: Sea-Going Research & Discovery) with John Delaney, PI of the Regional Scale Nodes cabled observatory. I also teach Ocean 121 (Deep Sea Exploration: Submarine Volcanoes ad Novel Life) each winter with the goal of sharing cutting-edge technologies taht are currently being used and developed to explore and interact with the oceans in new ways.



OCEAN 411 Sea Going Research and Discovery

Friday, January 03, 2014

This unique interdisciplinary, hands-on at-sea course will provide you with the experience of conducting research related to many important oceanographic processes operating within the Northeast Pacific ocean and on the seafloor. You will gain experience on a global class research ship using a state-of-the-art underwwater robotic vehicle (ROV) reaching depths of 9000 ft beneath the oceans surface and working on an active submarine volcano.

During ~two to four week durations at sea, you will work alongside experienced scientists, engineers and the ship’s crew to gain at-sea research and sea-going experience using advanced oceanographic research instruments and vehicles, and you will conduct your own research using data collected with some of these tools. The summer cruises will be aboard the University of Washington research ship the R/V Thompson and in 2014 the expedition will include the ROV ROPOS.

As a member of this oceanographic expedition and class, you will be taking part in the installation of America’s first high-power and high-bandwidth cabled observatory. This ocean observatory is called the Regional Scale Nodes (RSN), which the University of Washington is leading the design, installation and operation of ( The RSN is part of the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Observatory Initiative, which will construct a network of instruments, undersea-cabled observatories and instrumented moorings that span the Western Hemisphere. The RSN component will connect state-of-the-art instruments and full water column moorings to high-power and high-bandwidth networks permanently installed across the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate off the coasts of Washington and Oregon. As a member of this course, you will be participating in a truly groundbreaking effort to transform the kind of science and exploration that we can do in the world’s oceans.


Dr. Deborah Kelley
Dr. John Delaney

Course Goals

By the end of this course, we hope that you will have achieved the following:

  • A greater interest in the ocean and the systems within it.
  • A familiarity with basic oceanographic research methods and tools.
  • An understanding of the interaction between geological, biological, chemical and physical processes that occur within the oceans.
  • An ability to work collaboratively to think of and address research questions.
  • An ability to actively participate in scientific discussions and to critically think about scientific papers.

OCEAN 121 Deep Sea Exploration: Submarine Volcanoes and Novel Life

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Through an interactive seminar-style approach, discussions, and complementary videos, this 2-credit course will provide you with an introduction to some of the amazing processes that operate in the deepest parts of the world’s oceans. Over 60% of the volcanism on Earth operates beneath the ocean’s surface. Here, interconnected geological, biological and hydrological processes create some of the most extreme environments on our planet. Submarine volcanoes drive 700°F underwater hot springs at more than a mile beneath the oceans surface. These fluids support communities of novel life forms, which thrive in the absence of sunlight and oxygen. Indeed, here is where life may have originated. Only in the past few decades have scientists had the technology to discover and explore these deep-sea environments.

This course meets Wednesdays 2:30-4:20

There are no formal requirements as prerequisites - all are welcome.

The goals of this course are to:

  • Help you gain new knowledge about dynamic marine processes that shape our planet.
  • Provide you with an understanding about why these processes are important share with you exciting, cutting-edge technologies,  such as robotic vehicles and internet-connected underwater observatories that are currently being used and developed to explore and interact with the oceans in new ways.
  • Provide a learning environment that encourages you to ask scientific questions and to critically explore methods of addressing these questions.
  • Introduce you to the discovery process by providing you with first-hand accounts of what it is like to dive in the 3-person submersible Alvin to depths of 4,000 meters (13,000 ft), the discovery of the novel Lost City Hydrothermal Field, and what its like to explore an erupting underwater volcano for the first time.