Christopher R. German, PhD

Christopher R. German, PhD

Senior Scientist, Geology and Geophysics
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Chris German is a UK native who grew up in Rochester, England, where the two preceding generations of his family had worked in the local Naval Dockyard.

After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Geology and a PhD in Marine Geochemistry (both at the University of Cambridge, UK) Chris first moved to the U.S. in 1988-90 as a NATO Post-Doctoral Fellow studying hydrothermal vent systems with Professor John Edmond at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During this period, Chris had his first experiences at sea with Alvin, in 1988 and 1989.

From 1990 to 2000, Chris helped pioneer the field of systematic exploration of ridge-crests for hydrothermal activity while working in the UK and then, between 2000 and 2005, he served as co-PI for the proposal that acquired the UK’s first deep-diving ROV (Isis, sister to WHOI’s Jason). It was during this same period that he also began to pursue new directions, both in astrobiology and in the use of autonomous vehicles equipped with in situ sensors and artificial intelligence for ocean exploration.

In 2005, Chris returned to WHOI as a Senior Scientist in the Geology and Geophysics Department where he also served as WHOI’s Chief Scientist for Deep Submergence from 2006 to 2014, culminating in the relaunch of the newly upgraded Alvin, just in time for its 50th Birthday celebrations.

A veteran of more than 50 research expeditions comprising more than three years at sea, Chris has also served as Chair or Co-Chair for major international programs ranging from InterRidge to the Census of Marine Life as well as advising on issues concerning seafloor mining at the International Seabed Authority.

Past awards include the MBE Medal "for services to Marine Science" by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, a Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) degree from the University of Cambridge, UK in 2007 and an Alexander von Humboldt research award from the German government in 2014.

While recent events have seen Chris turn his skills to help with responses to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident, his first love remains the exploration for and investigation of deep-sea chemosynthetic ecosystems. His most recent cruises have taken him from the Caribbean, south to the southernmost tip of Chile and north to the ice-covered Arctic. Most recently, Chris has co-led an expedition spanning more than half breadth of the South Pacific from Peru to Tahiti; pioneered use of a new under-ice ROV in the Arctic Ocean and developed a new program research methods for using telepresence more effectively for ocean exploration, research and education.