Marine science and conservation consultant. Deep-sea ecology and population genetics. Underwater robotics.

The deep sea is Earth's last great wilderness.

Exploring technological solutions to conservation issues in the deep sea and beyond.

Andrew David Thaler is a deep-sea ecologist and population geneticist working at the intersection of science, conservation, and the open-source technology movement. His primary research is in the consequences of human impacts on biodiversity and connectivity in the deep sea. He earned a PhD in Marine Science and Conservation from Duke University, where his thesis focused on the environmental impacts of deep-sea mining on hydrothermal vent communities in the western Pacific.

He is a visiting scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, where he is investigating the consequences of overfishing on the population genetics of several shark species and developing a broad capability aerial drone for ecology and conservation work in the Chesapeake Bay.

Andrew runs several education and outreach initiatives, including hosting underwater robot workshops and managing the marine science and conservation website, Southern Fried Science.

Email Andrew at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @SFriedScientist.

Environmental Impacts of Deep-sea Mining.

Deep sea mining is iminent. Critical to understanding the environmental impacts of deep-sea mining is establishing baseline data on the population structure and connectivity of key species at deep-sea hydrothermal vents in Papua New Guinea and throughout the south Pacific. Read an interview Andrew gave to Nautilus Magazine about the future of conservation and deep-sea mining:

Andrew has published extensively on the specific genetic diversity and distribution of species at hydrothermal vents in Papua New Guinea. Select papers can be found here:

Andrew has also published a several general overviews on the state of mining in the deep sea, including a review for Oxford Bibliographies and an OpEd in Undark Magazine:

Unravelling the genetic legacy of overfishing in hammerhead sharks

Using multiple genetic markers to evaluate the genetic signature of population bottlenecks in several shark species, including great hammerheads. Funding provided by Save Our Seas Foundation and through crowdfunding.

Connecting technology and marine conservation through low-cost robotics

Developing a multi-purpose Eco-Drone for marine ecology and conservation monitoring in the Chesapeake Bay. Currently testing the feasibility of surveying harmful algal blooms over the York River and identifying shark species in Coastal North Carolina via aerial and underwater robotics. Supported by an Early Career Fellowship through Ocean Classrooms.

Developing best practice guidelines for mitigating the transfer of invasive species via microROVs

Assessing the risk microROVs pose as potential vectors for the transport of invasive species and developing best practices for the mitigation of invasive species transfer. The first professional guidelines were published in Tropical Conservation Studies:

Science education in the 21st century

Andrew delivers marine science and conservation stories to a broad and diverse audience. He oversees Southern Fried Science, one of the most widely read marine science websites. He teaches Social Media for Environmental Communications through Duke University each spring and is available to run social media and science communication workshops.

Andrew travels the world teaching students and educators from primary school through adulthood how to build low-cost underwater robots and design marine ecology studies around these machines. He completed a flagship program in Papua New Guinea in late 2014, and has run workshops more recently in Gloucester Point, Virginia. He is available to hold robot building workshops, provide technical demonstrations of their capabilities, or help design curricula around underwater robotics.

Lead-authored publications

  1. Thaler AD, Freitag A, Bergman E, Fretz D, and Saleu W (2015) Robots as vectors for marine invasions: best practices for minimizing transmission of invasive species via observation-class ROVs. Tropical Conservation Science, 8(3): 711-717.
  2. Thaler AD and Shiffman D (2015) Fish tales: Combating fake science in popular media. Ocean and Coastal Management, doi:10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2015.04.005.
  3. Thaler AD, Plouviez S, Saleu W, Alei F, Jacobson A, Boyle EA, Schultz TF, Carlsson J, Van Dover CL (2014) Comparative population structure of two deep-sea hydrothermal-vent-associated decapods (Chorocaris sp. 2 and Munidopsis lauensis) from southwestern Pacific back-arc basins. PLoSONE, 9: e101345.
  4. Thaler AD, Zelnio K, Saleu W, Schultz TF, Carlsson J, Cunningham C, Vrijenhoek R, Van Dover CL (2011) The spatial scale of genetic subdivision in populations of Ifremeria nautilei, a hydrothermal-vent gastropod from the southwest Pacific. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 11(1): 372.
  5. Thaler AD, Vilgalys R, Van Dover CL (2011) Ascomycete phylotypes recovered from a Gulf of Mexico methane seep are identical to an uncultured deep-sea fungal clade from the Pacific. Fungal Ecology. doi:10.1016/j.funeco.2011.07.002.
  6. Thaler AD, Zelnio KA, Jones R, Carlsson J, Van Dover CL, Schultz T (2010) Characterization of 12 polymorphic microsatellite loci in Ifremeria nautilei, a chemoautotrophic gastropod from deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Conservation Genetics Resources. doi:10.1007/s12686-010-9174-9.

Co-authored publications

  1. McClain C, Balk MA, Benfield MC, Branch TA, Chen C, Cosgrove J, Dove ADM, Helm RR, Hochberg FGE, Gaskins LC, Lee FB, Marshall A, McMurray SE, Schanche C, Stone SN, Thaler AD (2015) Sizing Ocean Giants: Patterns of Intraspecific Size Variation in Marine Megafauna. PeerJ, 2: e715.
  2. Shiffman DS, Gallagher AJ, Wester J, Macdonald C, Thaler AD, Cooke SJ, Hammerschlag N (2015) A letter of clarification from the authors of trophy fishing for species threatened with extinction. Marine Policy. 53: 213-214.
  3. Shiffman DS, Gallagher AJ, Wester J, Macdonald C, Thaler AD, Cooke SJ, Hammerschlag N (2014) Trophy fishing for species threatened with extinction: a way forward building on a history of conservation. Marine Policy. 50: 318-322.
  4. Boyle EA, Thaler AD, Jacobson A, Plouviez P, Van Dover CL (2013) Characterization of 10 polymorphic microsatellite loci in Munidopsis lauensis, a squat-lobster from the southwestern Pacific. Conservation Genetics Resources, 5: 647-649.
  5. Jacobson A, Plouviez S, Thaler AD, Van Dover CL (2013) Characterization of 9 polymorphic microsatellite loci in Lamellibrachia sp. 2, a tubeworm found at deep-sea hydrothermal vents and cold seeps. Conservation Genetics Resources, 5: 1005-1007.
  6. Collins PC, Copley J, Boschen R, Forde J, Se-Jong J, Kennedy B, Lindsay D, Marsh L, Nye V, Patterson A, Watanabe H, Yamamoto H, Carlsson J, Thaler AD (2013) VentBase: Developing a consensus among stakeholders in the deep-sea regarding environmental impact assessment for deep-sea mining--A workshop report. Marine Policy, 42: 334-336.
  7. Jacobson A, Plouviez S, Thaler AD, Van Dover CL (2012) Characterization of 13 polymorphic microsatellite loci in Rimicaris hybisae, a shrimp from deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Conservation Genetics Resources. DOI 10.1007/s12686-012-9825-0.
  8. Schultz TF, Hsing P-Y, Eng A, Zelnio KA, Thaler AD, Carlsson J, Van Dover CL (2010) Characterization of 18 polymorphic microsatellite loci from Bathymodiolus manusensis (Bivalvia, Mytilidae) from deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Conservation Genetics Resources. doi: 10.1007/s12686-010-9272-8
  9. Zelnio KA, Thaler AD, Jones RE, Saleu W, Schultz TF, Van Dover CL, Carlsson J (2010) Characterization of nine polymorphic microsatellite loci in Chorocaris sp. (Crustacea: Caridea: Alvinocarididae) from deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Conservation Genetics Resources. doi:10.1007/s12686-010-9243-0.
  10. Forward RB, Thaler AD, Singer R (2007) Entrainment of the activity rhythm of the mole crab Emerita talpoida. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 341(1): 10-15.

Book chapters, book reviews, and other publications

  1. Van Dover CL, Arnaud-Haond S, Clark MR, Smith S, Thaler AD, van den Hove S (2016) Application of Biological Studies to Governance and Management of the Deep Sea. In Clark MR, Consalvey A, Rowden AA (Eds.), Biological Sampling in the Deep Sea. Wiley-Blackwell.
  2. Thaler AD (2015) Marine Mining. In Wohl E (Ed.), Environmental Science. Oxford Bibliographies. DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199363445-0047.
  3. Thaler AD (2014) Book Review: Prager, Ellen. Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime: The Ocean's Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter. Biological Conservation. 169: 344.
  4. Thaler AD, Zelnio KA, Freitag A, MacPherson R, Shiffman D, Bik H, Goldstein M, McClain C (2012) Digital Environmentalism: Tools and strategies for the evolving online ecosystem. In D. Gallagher (Ed.), Environmental Leadership: A Reference Handbook. SAGE Reference.
  5. Thaler AD (2011) Legacy of Rebirth: Lessons from Monterey Bay. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2011.02.002

Popular science writing

  1. Chronicle Vitae: Managing a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign
  2. Undark: Living with Deep-Sea Mining
  3. Hakai: Mud, Shuck, and Spat: The future of Chesapeakes Bay's oysters depends on interstate cooperation.
  4. Chronicle Vitae: Setting Up Your Crowdfunding Campaign
  5. Chronicle Vitae: Can Crowdfunding Fill the Science Funding Gap?
  6. Chronicle Vitae: Surviving the Postdocalypse: Filling Your Knowledge Gaps
  7. Motherboard: How Man and Machine Unlocked the Ocean's Depths.
  8. Motherboard: How a small island nation is saving the humble sea dick.
  9. Chronicle Vitae: My two years as a rogue scientist
  10. Chronicle Vitae: Should you become a corportion?
  11. Open Explorer Journal: Can your science be open if your methods are WHACC?
  12. Chronicle Vitae: Negotiating Your Way to a Fair Adjuncting Experience
  13. Hakai: Baltimore's Garbage Wheel
  14. Chronicle Vitae: The Rogue Scientist's Guide to Surviving the Postdocalypse
  15. Modern Farmer: Goat Trippin'
  16. Motherboard: Drones Would Revolutionize Oceanic Conservation, If They Weren't Illegal.
  17. Motherboard: The History of Exploding Whales Is the History of the Internet Itself
  18. Scientific American: Drones, Robotic Rovers and Citizen Scientists Join Forces to Sample a Lake's Biodiversity
  19. Zocalo Public Square: Why I Drowned L.A. and the World
  20. Huffington Post: Climate Change Is Poised to Cause Chaos in the North Atlantic Herring Fishery
  21. Io9: The horrifying physiological and psychological consequences of being Aquaman

Science Fiction

Fleet: An adventure in seasteading and climate change. "The sea is big. The sea is cruel. She takes more than she gives. That's how it's always been." The world has changed. Coastal cities lie abandoned as the encroaching sea rises, drowning and reshaping the land.

Prepared: a novella from the end of the world. San Francisco stands as the last holdout against catastrophic sea level rise, but it's time to bug out.

A Crack in the Sky above Titan. It's snowing on Titan. On Saturn's largest moon, a lonely salvager sets off across Kraken Mare, a sea of liquid methane, for the score of a lifetime.