Prof. Dr. Donna Blackman. Photo: S. Kaehlert, GEOMAR.

Prof. Dr. Donna Blackman. Photo: S. Kaehlert, GEOMAR.


The mapping of the sea: Terra Incognita on the globe

The 18th Marie-Tharp Lecture Series for Ocean Research at GEOMAR returns to the scientific origins of its name.

22 May 2017 / Kiel. The bathymetry of the ocean floor is the key to the geological understanding of the various tectonic and ecological processes in the deep sea. Building on the pioneering work of Marie Tharp, the name given to the lecture series at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, Dr. Donna Blackman, from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, USA, maps the seafloor. Despite her’s and others‘ efforts, only a fraction has been mapped and 90% of the deep sea continues to be 'Terra Incognita'. In her talk at the 18th Marie-Tharp Lecture, she presented her latest results.

Dr. Blackman first studied geosciences at the University of Santa Cruz, California, before moving to the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Woods Hole to obtain her masters degree in Marine Geophysics. She received her PhD at Brown University in Rhode Island. Through postdoc phases at the universities of Washington and Leeds in the UK, she came to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Professor Blackman was able to gain insights into project funding as a contact person with the American research organization, the National Science Foundation (NSF), before returning to research after five years. Here work centers around tectonic and magmatic processes on spreading ridges and fracture zones, which characterize wide areas of the ocean floor. She uses a whole range of geophysical measuring methods with a special focus on the high-resolution seabed mapping, which she presented in her lecture. Modern mapping methods include, among others, underwater drones, so-called AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles), as those also used at GEOMAR. "Detailed maps of the ocean floor are not only essential for solving fundamental tectonic problems, but also led to the discovery of active hydrothermal fields with unique ecosystems," explains Professor Heidrun Kopp from GEOMAR. "Donna Blackman's work has a long tradition of seabed mapping, which began with Marie Tharp, the name given to our series of seminars, and we are particularly pleased to welcome Donna to GEOMAR," says Kopp.

The "Marie Tharp Lecture Series" is organized by GEOMAR's Women's Executive Board (WEB). To this end, the WEB invites internationally renowned scientists, who present their scientific work in Kiel, but at the same time serve as a model for young female scientists. As in past lectures, a get-together takes place for these young female scientists following the public lectures. There, young researchers can exchange with more experienced colleagues and discuss possible career paths.