Nobel Conference 48 Presenter Profile: David Gallo

Posted on July 17th, 2012 by

Top researchers in biogeochemistry, oceanography, deep-sea biology, molecular genetics, and coral ecology are coming together on Oct. 2-3, 2012, for “Our Global Ocean,” the 48th annual Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College. They will meet to discuss the marine realm: what we know, what we don’t know, and how we humans rely upon healthy vibrant seas.

Here is an introduction to Nobel Conference 48 presenter David Gallo, who will speak at this year’s Nobel Conference at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2.

Does everyone dream of diving deep under the ocean in a submarine? Dave Gallo’s dream began when he read about the deep oceans in a 1976 National Geographic magazine. It became reality only two-and-one-half years later when he took his first dive in Alvin (DSV2), the U.S. Navy-owned Deep Submergence Vehicle operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI).

As director of special projects at WHOI, renowned oceanographer Gallo works closely with scientists and engineers at the forefront of global exploration and discovery. But, he is probably most famous for his exploration of the wreck of the R.M.S. Titanic, 2.5 miles under the water’s surface. Researchers familiar with site say the ship’s deck could collapse within 25 years, and the massive hull isn’t faring much better. It’s slowly being eaten away by microbes and eventually will dissolve into the ocean’s floor. To preserve the underwater scene of the wreckage, an expedition co-led by Gallo is under way to create an interactive, 3D map of the entire area. Their goal is to use sonar and advanced high-definition 3D camera technology to produce what is essentially a 3D view of the Titanic as it sits on the bottom of sea.

After several failed attempts at community college in New York, Gallo sold shoes for seven years before the National Geographic story inspired him to go back to school. Supercharged by curiousity, he successfully passed several courses at a community college and attended the State University of New York at Albany. He never thought that he would go to graduate school, but after he got his bachelor’s degree he still wanted to learn more, so he continued in a master’s program at SUNY, Albany. When he was nearing the end of that program, his adviser suggested that he consider going on to a doctoral program. As a result, he went on to earn his Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Rhode Island. In 1987 Robert Ballard invited him to come to WHOI as assistant director of the Center for Marine Exploration and to join the team exploring the Titanic site, which Bob had just discovered. Gallo has participated in numerous expeditions to the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and to the Mediterranean Sea. He was U.S. project leader of the search for missing flight Air France 447 and is a member of James Cameron’s Deep Ocean Task Force.

Dr. Gallo, who has received a number of awards for his work, including a fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is passionate about exploration and discovery and dedicated to communicating the importance of science and engineering to the public-at-large. While he maintains close working relationships with scientists, filmmakers, and media broadcasters, he also travels extensively, giving lectures nationally and internationally to audiences ranging from elementary school children through CEOs of companies. Every time he tells an ocean exploration story he sees the eyes of the audience light up and hears the gasps. Gallo says that humanity has always taken the oceans for granted, and this needs to change. He uses the invitation to speak about the exploration of the oceans as an opportunity to talk about the state of the oceans. There may not be actual islands of trash the size of Texas floating around out there, but the chemicals that we are putting into the oceans are much worse. Even acts like washing the oil off of rocks after an oil spill can be detrimental.

While there have been great advances in technology that are allowing us to explore the deepest ocean trenches and discover the incredible beauty and diversity of the life around hydrothermal vents, only five percent of the oceans have been explored. Because the oceans are so important to all of us, Gallo believes that we need to become better at exploring them and understanding the data that we gather. And we need to understand the effects that changes in climate are having on the ocean environment.

Gallo describes himself as a regular person—not an academic thoroughbred. While he enjoys his work and speaking, he can be just as interested in looking at plants in his backyard. He says he might have been a biologist if he had gotten excited about a different aspect of the oceans. He enjoys the wonder of nature and loves going for walks. He also enjoys music, cooking, and shopping.

For more information about the 48th Nobel Conference, go online to


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