Mission Aquarius Crew: Mark Patterson

Meet the crew of Mission Aquarius.

This is part of our ongoing coverage of Mission Aquarius, what may be the last mission to the world’s only remaining undersea research base. For the full story, visit our Mission Aquarius expedition page.


As a crewmember of Mission Aquarius, Mark brings his lifelong love of the ocean, coupled with deep knowledge and experience to the team. He’s been doing research from underwater habitats since 1984, and has logged 79 days saturation diving.

“I knew I wanted to be a biologist by the time I was 6,” said Mark, “That was the same year my dad taught me to snorkel. When I was an elementary student, I basically lived in the fields with my neighborhood pals, catching and keeping huge collections of critters. Obviously, I had a very tolerant and encouraging Mom and Dad.”

Mark was a host researcher on JASON XI, a $3 Million K-12 Outreach Program, from June, 1999 to April, 2000. He performed 55 live one-hour shows over a 16-day period from the Aquarius underwater habitat, reaching 1.5 million students. Mark is a twenty-year professor of marine science, and Director of Autonomous Systems Laboratory, at Virginia Institute of Marine Science, where he specializes in marine ecology and biomechanics. He received his BA, MA and PhD from Harvard and holds multiple patents for autonomous underwater vehicle technology.

Mark Patterson conducting research outside Aquarius. Photo courtesy Mark Patterson.

Mark has worked extensively on free swimming robots that can survey the ocean like never before, with the idea that new technology can lead to new insights, and whole new areas of research. His work has led to breakthroughs in, among other things, identifying fishes from their side scan sonar images using neural network processing. Don’t worry, we don’t know what that means either, but Mark said it will help in fisheries stock surveys, which we do know about, and they need help. The best part is, Mark’s robots use behaviors and structures of ocean organisms as models to function better.

He has won the Antarctic Service Medal from the National Science Foundation, and the Lockheed Martin Award for Excellence in Ocean Science and Engineering, among other awards, and is a huge asset to the Mission Aquarius team.


He was quoted in a Virginia Gazette article as saying, “I’ll be conducting measurements on coral and sponge respiration and photosynthesis using a PAM fluorometer and a micro-electrode system. Our results will help predict how corals will cope, or not, as the oceans change.”


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