Center For Ocean Sciences Education Excellence COSEE Ocean Systems
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Hydrothermal Vents & Megaplumes
Presented by Dr. Jessica Fitzsimmons and Dr. Brandy Toner - Thursday, May 12, 2015

The GEOTRACES webinar series concluded with a discussion of the influence of hydrothermal vents – and the megaplumes that they create -- on levels of trace metals in the ocean. At mid-ocean ridges, heat, seawater, and ocean crust combine to create vent fluids, which are typically rich in trace metals such as iron. Hydrothermal plumes can impact ocean chemistry thousands of kilometers from their sources. In some key areas of the ocean, these far-flung sources of iron may affect ocean productivity and, eventually, climate.

As with the other research shared during the GEOTRACES webinar series, collecting hydrothermal vent-borne measurements requires a high level of international coordination and collaboration. Please continue to follow research of the GEOTRACES team as they seek to unravel the mysteries of biogeochemical cycles and large-scale distribution of trace metals in the ocean environment.

Webinar Archive

You can watch the archived video of the webinar below. Below the video are the concept maps that were presented, so that you can follow along with the video.

Click here (PDF, 77 KB) for a transcript of the Q&A portion of this video.

Concept Maps

This webinar contained two concept maps. To view any map in full screen, click on the blue wrench and select Open Full Map Viewer. Click on the concepts to access additional resources embedded in the map. To save this map to your CLIMB account, click the blue wrench in the upper left corner and select Copy Map to My Maps.

How are Hydrothermal Vent Fluids Created and How Do They Move Through the Ocean?

Brandy's concept map illustrates the mechanics of how hydrothermal vents are created, and the evolution of hydrothermal “plumes” as they move through the water.

How Do Hydrothermal Vents Affect the Ocean's Iron Composition?

Jessica's concept map explains how hydrothermal vent plumes can carry the many forms of iron through the ocean. The map includes evidence for the possible long-distance travel of dissolved iron as well as its potential impact on productivity and climate.


  • Networked Observations and Visualizations of the Axial Environment (NOVAE)
    NOVAE explores long-term strategies to take advantage of the convergence of two significant conditions: 1) Axial Seamount, a Mid-Ocean Ridge volcano-hydrothermal system, that has been and likely will be, very active for decades, and 2) a cabled sensor-robotic system off the WA-OR coast that includes a host of sensors on top of Axial and at the base of the eastern slope of Axial.
  • National Geographic Encyclopedia: Ocean Vent
    Learn about underwater hydrothermal vents from the National Geographic Education and Children’s Media division. This division creates best-in-class products, experiences, and programs that teach kids about the world and how it works, empowering them to make it a better place.
  • Deep-Sea Vents and Life's Origins
    This video segment adapted from NOVA reveals the unexpectedly rich ecosystems researchers found when they looked more closely at the seafloor near mid-ocean ridges.
  • Mystery of the Megaplume
    After completing this lesson, high school students will be able to describe and characterize hydrothermal vents and vent plumes; describe tow-yo operations and how data from these operations can provide clues to the location of hydrothermal vents; and interpret temperature anomaly data to recognize a probable plume from a hydrothermal vent.
  • Submarine Ring of Fire 2006
    Lesson plans for students in Grades 5 - 12 that are specifically tied to the science behind the 2006 Submarine Ring of Fire Expedition. These lessons focus on cutting-edge ocean exploration and research using state-of-the-art technologies.
  • We're in Hot Water Now: Hydrothermal Vents
    In this lesson, students in grades 3-5 students use National Geographic's Fantastic Journeys: Yellowstone to learn about the processes that drive geysers. They will then see photographs of hydrothermal vents, discuss the reasons hydrothermal vents occur, and learn about some uniquely adapted animals that live near the vents. They will conclude by creating aquarium exhibits showcasing some of these animals and their special adaptations.
  • Hydrothermal Vent Chemistry and Life
    In this activity, students in grades 6-8 explore inter actives to learn about hydrothermal vent chemistry and the animals that have adapted to living in the harsh environment near vents.
  • In Search of Megaplumes
    Imagine volcanoes that erupt with giant spinning plumes filled with microbes and other life that spin like a discus for months. Welcome to the strange, almost completely unknown life of undersea eruptions!
About the Presenters

Jessica Fitzsimmons 

Jessica Fitzsimmons is an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University. She received a Ph.D. in chemical oceanography from MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionI and a B.A. in Chemistry from Boston University. The Fitzsimmons Lab studies the distribution, physicochemical state, and isotope ratios of trace metals in seawater in order to better understand the cycles and biological usage of metals in the water column.

Brandy Toner 

Brandy Toner is an Associate Professor in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate at the University of Minnesota. She holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Policy Management and an M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering, both from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research addresses chemical and biological processes that result in the cycling of metals in the environment.