Into the Deep: An Immersive Oceans Course main content.

Into the Deep: An Immersive Oceans Course

Part of Courses for Adults

Five Tuesdays, January 15 - February 12, 2019

Giant squid

Join deep-sea evolutionary biologist Mercer Brugler as he takes us on a deep dive into the science behind the Unseen Oceans exhibition during this five-part immersive course. Featured guest scientists and experts will deliver a close look into some of the oceans’ most awe-inspiring characteristics—from bioluminescent organisms and giant squid to the unexplored depths of the oceans' most mysterious regions. This course takes place inside the Unseen Oceans exhibition.

Week 1 (January 15th)

The Evolution of Modern Cetaceans (Whales and Dolphins) from the Land to the Ocean

Guest Speaker: Dr. Paul L. Sieswerda, Gotham Whale

Meet Pakicetus, the first “whale” that lived on land 50 million years ago, and learn about its relationship to modern whales and land mammals, like the hippo.

Week 2 (January 22nd)

Marine Drifters and Fluorescent Animals

Guest Speaker: Dr. David Gruber, CUNY

Learn why marine drifters (plankton) are so vital to life on Earth including humans, find out which zooplankton (drifting carnivores) have been found in NYC tap water, and use microscopes in the Sackler Educational Laboratory to view a diversity of living microscopic organisms. Then, discover the causes of fluorescence in various animal species, and the special technology that revealed this unique trait still being debated upon by scientists.

Week 3 (January 29th)

The Giant Squid: Evolution and Diversity of Intelligent Marine Invertebrates

Guest Speaker: Dr. Mark Siddall, AMNH Curator

Participate in a dissection in the Sackler Educational Laboratory to discover a squid’s siphon, beak, pen, ink sac, and more oddities, and go behind the scenes to the Invertebrate Zoology Wet Collection to meet the Museum’s preserved specimen of a giant squid.

Week 4 (February 5th)

Deep Sea Exploration: Discovery in the Largest Environment on Earth

Guest Speaker: Bruce Strickrott, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Learn about the latest human-operated and autonomous underwater vehicles exploring the world’s oceans today. View high-resolution images of various deep-sea landscapes and their inhabitants, including a 4,265-year-old black coral, a 17,000-year-old glass sponge, a 15-foot tall bubblegum coral. Then, decorate your own Styrofoam cup for it to be sent into the depths of the ocean in the next R/V Atlantis cruise of 2019, attached to the world-famous Alvin submersible–under the crushing pressures of the deep sea, the Styrofoam will reduce in size, while preserving your design.

Week 5 (February 12th)

Visualizing the World’s Oceans Through Cutting-Edge Technologies

Guest Speaker: Dr. Vicki Ferrini, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Experience the Museum’s exclusive 360-degree video experience, Swimming with Giants, and other titles developed to explore the depths of the oceans through cutting-edge visualization and virtual reality technologies.


Meet the Instructors

Mercer Brugler

Dr. Mercer R. Brugler, a deep-sea evolutionary biologist, is an Associate Professor at NYC College of Technology (CUNY), which ranks #1 in ethnic diversity among northern regional colleges. In collaboration with Dr. Estefania Rodriguez (Associate Curator of Marine Invertebrates), Dr. Brugler runs a molecular lab at the American Museum of Natural History where underrepresented minority students at the high school and undergraduate level learn how to extract, amplify, sequence and analyze the genetic blueprint of deep-sea black corals in an effort to discover new species. Black corals have been found living at 8,600 meters depth (=28,215 feet) and the longest-living species has been aged at over 4,265 years old. Students in Dr. Brugler's lab regularly participate in research cruises aboard the NOAA research vessel Manta to the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (NW Gulf of Mexico).

Dr. Brugler is also an adjunct at NYU's School of Professional Studies (Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies) and a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History (Washington DC). Dr. Brugler earned a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology at the University of Miami, Florida (1997-2001), a Master of Science in Marine Biology at the College of Charleston’s Grice Marine Laboratory (South Carolina, 2001-2004), and a Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (2004-2011). Dr. Brugler was also a Gerstner Scholar and Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History's Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics (2011-2014).

Bruce Strickrott

Bruce Strickrott is the Group Manager and the Chief Pilot of the human-occupied Deep Submergence Vehicle Alvin at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Alvin, and its support ship, the R/V Atlantis, are owned by the U.S. Navy and operated as a part of the U.S. National Deep Submergence Facility, with principal funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Naval Research (ONR), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

He joined the Alvin operation team in 1996, and has logged 365 dives in Alvin for a total time of over 2500 hours submerged. He has travelled extensively with the submersible, supporting scientists from around the world including dives to depths of 4500 m (2.8 miles deep). His time in Alvin has helped to identify and collect many new species, including the deepest recorded hagfish (Eptotretus strickrottii – bearing his last name). 

Bruce currently oversees the engineering and operations groups and periodically sails as a pilot during dive missions. He has participated in a number of major Alvin overhaul events including the completion of the newest Alvin in 2013. The team is currently working on new designs that will ultimately complete Alvin’s final systems conversion for 6500-meter depth certification. Initial dive operations to 6500 meters are scheduled for 2021.

Into the Deep: An Immersive Oceans Course is made possible by OceanX, an initiative of the Dalio Foundation, as part of its generous support of the special exhibition Unseen Oceans and its related educational activities and public programs.