Collection Data

Page Contents: Section | Significance | Background | Location & Dates | Taxonomic Contents | Documentation | Description of Collection | Collection Inventory | Collection Assets

Eureka, Eel River 1988

Section Responsible for Processing



Eel River Methane Seeps (Northern California)
Patterns of Infaunal Community Structure, Nutrition and Settlement Associated with an Upper Slope Methane Seep (with A. Rathburn, J. Gieskes) NOAA-NURP West Coast (3/00-2/02)
“The discovery of reduced environments in the deep sea, such as hydrothermal vents and seeps, has had a dramatic influence on perception of life at depth. However, most research into the structure and function of these communities has emphasized larger (megafaunal) or hard-substrate organisms. Paradigms formed about deep-sea reducing environments regarding community structure, nutrition, and rates of colonization have yet to be examined for smaller sediment-dwelling faunas (macrofauna, metazoan meiofauna, and foraminifera). This project establishes the influence of methane seep geochemistry on the community structure, nutritional sources and settlement patterns of small infauna (macrofauna and meiofauna) on the slope off the Eel River, Northern California. Coring will be conducted to relate sediment geochemical properties to infaunal abundance, species composition, diversity, and vertical distribution. The extent to which reduced compounds, chemosynthesis, and symbioses contribute to the nutrition of seep macrofauna (relative to non-seep slope fauna) will be examined with stable isotopic analyses of C, N and S. The role of sulfides and proximity to active seep sediments in determining infaunal recruitment at seeps will be evaluated experimentally by deployment of sediment-filled colonization trays. Resulting data on species composition and nutritional modes of colonizers will help determine the extent to which the community structure of seep infauna is determined by recruitment events. Finally, recruitment patterns and infaunal communities of the Eel River methane seeps will be compared to those in other stressed, enriched or more typical slope environments. Together these results will help integrate the infauna of reducing environments into the much larger context of deep-sea sediments as a whole.”
From the Lisa Levin Lab website (


Leslie Harris (NHMLAC Collections Manager, Polychaetes) was invited by Dr. Lisa Levin to participate in her NOAA-NURP funded cruise to explore infaunal communities in Northern California methane seep areas. Harris identified invertebrates in the field and in the lab before depositing them in the NHMLAC collection.

Some of the publications resulting from the cruise include:

Levin, L.A., James, D.W., Martin, C.M., Rathburn, A., Harris, L., Michener, R. 2001. Do methane seeps support distinct infaunal assemblages? Observations on community structure and nutrition from the northern California slope and shelf. Marine Ecology Progress Series 208: 21-39

Levin, L.A. and R. Michener. 2002. Isotopic evidence of chemosynthesis-based nutrition of macrobenthos: The lightness of being at Pacific methane seeps. Limnology and Oceanography 47: 1336-1345.

Levin, L.A., Ziebis, W., Mendoza, G.F., Growney, V.A., Tryon, M.D., Brown, K.M., Mahn, C., Gieskes, J.M., Rathburn, A.E. 2003. Spatial heterogeneity of macrofauna at northern California methane seeps: influence of sulfide concentration and fluid flow. Marine Ecology Progress Series 265: 123-139.

Levin, L.A. 2005. Ecology of cold seep sediments: interactions of fauna with flow, chemistry and microbes. Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review, 2005, 43: 1-46.

Levin, L.A., Mendoza, G.F., Gonzalez, J. and A. Thurber. Diversity of bathyal macrobenthos on the northeastern Pacific margin: the influence of methane seeps and oxygen minimum zones. Marine Ecology. In press.

Rathburn, A.E., Levin, L.A., Held Z., Lohmann, K.C. 2000. Benthic foraminifera associated with cold methane seeps on the northern Californian margin: Ecology and stable isotope composition. Marine Micropaleontology 38: 247-266.

Collection Location and Dates

Samples were collected off the mouth of the Eel River, Eureka, Northern California, in October 1998.

Taxonomic Contents

A mix of invertebrates, dominated by polychaetes, crustaceans, and molluscs. Field sorting produced polychaetes, crustaceans, and mixed lots.


Harris’ field notes & electronic files are in the Polychaete Section. Station data is to be entered into the MBC database.

Description of Collection

Specimens brought back to NHMLAC are wet preserved. They were fixed in 8% buffered formalin-seawater, briefly rinsed in fresh water, and transferred into 70% ethanol.

Collection Inventory

180 lots.

Collection Assets

Date View or Retrieve File Information
11/29/2010 Retrieve [69.5 kB] Raw data file

Curatorial Status (Click to view)