Dr. Cheryl Morrison is a Research Geneticist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Leetown Science Center in Kearneysville, West Virginia. She received a B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (1991), and a PhD from Florida State University in Biological Sciences (1997). Dr. Morrison leads a conservation genomics lab that studies imperiled species, such as freshwater bivalves and fishes. In the marine realm, she is interested in understanding how biodiversity it is generated and maintained through a combination of life history traits and the physical oceanographic conditions that organisms have experienced. Her current research involves the utilization of genetic and genomic techniques to document and characterize biodiversity and population connectivity of sensitive deep-sea ecosystems, with the goal of providing managers with necessary information for effective marine spatial planning. She has been studying cold water coral ecosystems for over a decade in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and has participated in 25 research cruises (over 250 days at sea) that have utilized submersibles and ROVs to explore and document benthic habitats. Dr. Morrison has been a coPI on similar joint-partner projects in the Gulf of Mexico (Lophelia I and II, Chemo III), as well as the recent Pathways to the Abyss project investigating sensitive habitats in the mid-Atlantic Canyons.
During this mission, Cheryl will be collecting mesozooplankton samples, such as copepods, amphipods and pteropods, from mid-water Tucker trawls, as well as water samples from discrete depths. Back at the lab, metabarcoding techniques will be used to characterize the biodiversity present in the water column, and to discern whether a signal for deep scattering layer organisms is observed from water column samples. This information will add to our knowledge of food webs and will compliment stable isotope analyses. She will also be collecting tissue samples of sampled organisms for connectivity and barcoding studies.