USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog

Dive into the Unknown with Dr. David Gallo

On April 24, 2014, an exclusive group of visionaries presented to over 4,000 students at the USA Science & Engineering Festival’s inaugural X-STEM Symposium sponsored by Northrop Grumman Foundation and MedImmune. The all day event included interactive presentations and workshops with some of the top scientists and engineers in the country.

In the presentation below, renowned oceanographer Dr. David Gallo dives into the unknown world deep under the sea to discuss ocean exploration, unexplored creatures and territory and the technology required to make it happen at the X-STEM Symposium.

Watch his presentation: 

The world deep beneath the surface of the ocean is a dark, mysterious, and fascinating place. Renowned oceanographer David Gallo should know — he’s been there numerous times.

“Sea life at those depths — two to three miles down– is also bizarre, resilient, beautiful and shockingly abundant,” he adds.

A pioneer in ocean exploration, David (who participated in the exploration of the legendary Titanic) is one of the first scientists to use a combination of manned submersible vehicles and robots to map and study the undersea world with clarity and detail.

In his work, he’s traversed and plumbed the depths of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea.

“It’s absolutely amazing to consider that the Earth’s surface is covered 75 percent by water, yet we’ve explored only 3 percent of the oceans and seas thus far,” David muses. “This tells us we don’t know much yet about this planet at all.”

As the Director of Special Projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, he has taken part in some of the most adventurous deep sea exploration projects of this era, including: serving as co-expedition leader during the exploration of RMS Titanic and the German battleship Bismarck (using Russian MIR submarines), as well as a recent expedition to find the lost WWII submarine USS Grunion.

But as much as David is passionate about being underwater exploring and discovering, he is equally excited about sharing his experiences about life deep beneath the sea with the general public as a speaker and presenter.

At one such speaking engagement (as part of the TED Speakers Series), David, using vibrant, compelling video clips captured by submarines, takes his enthusiastic audience on a fascinating journey two miles below the ocean – a world of total darkness, save for the eerie, blinking fluorescent glows emitted by creatures inhabiting those depths, lighting up the darkness like fireflies.

“We see the most mysterious animals out of the window of our submersibles at those depths,” David eagerly tells his audience. Explaining the strange intermittent glows coming from many of the roving sea life, David says, “Some creatures emit these lights to avoid being eaten, or to attract or hypnotize their prey.”

David surprises his audiences by revealing other fascinating facts about the deep sea: some of the highest mountains and deepest valleys on Earth are at the ocean depths, and also at the bottom of the sea lie active, ash-spewing volcanoes.

David has lectured extensively both nationally and internationally to audiences ranging from elementary school children to CEOs. He also maintains a close working relationships with scientists, filmmakers, and media broadcasters ( such as the Discovery Channel, History Channel, and National Geographic, and PBS), and is currently involved with the FIRST Robotics Competition, and with the National Underwater Robotics Competition outreach programs.

David received his Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Rhode Island, and his Bachelor of Science degree in Geological Science from the State University of New York at Albany.

“It’s fascinating. As much as we’ve discovered about the ocean, we still have so much more to learn,” he says.

Thank you to Dr. Gallo and all of our X-STEM Speakers! Learn more about our X-STEM Symposium here.