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Duke Scientist Makes Like Darwin In Brazil, Sept. 20 - 23

Follow the Expedition on Blogs and Twitter

The Brazilian tall ship Tocorime'

In an inspiring mix of 19th and 21st Century technologies, a Duke Marine Lab researcher will play the role of Charles Darwin on an upcoming oceanographic cruise off the coast of Brazil.

Kevin Zelnio, a blogger and marine biologist who works with Marine Lab Director Cindy Van Dover, will be aboard a twin-masted tall ship as the science officer and blogger-in-residence during a Sept. 20-23 expedition.

Zelnio, who regularly blogs from Deep Sea News, will identify marine organisms and run DNA extractions on them as they are pulled aboard by the Brazilian tall ship Tocorimé off the coast of Paraty, Brazil. He'll also be blogging at and updating Twitter as @kzelnio.

The expedition is being run as a feasibility study by the HMS Beagle Project, which aims to rebuild the ship Darwin sailed on in a five-year, round-the-world voyage of exploration. The new ship will be outfitted for modern oceanographic science for both research and education.

Though Darwin spent more time on land than at sea during his trip, "I think of him as the epitome of a marine scientist," Zelnio said. "He was effectively using his time on the research vessel to make observations and take detailed notes, and integrating them with other areas like geology, and then using that material to make discoveries for literally decades."

In addition to correctly surmising how ring-like coral atolls came to be, Darwin also improvised a device for collecting plankton from a moving ship and spent hours cataloguing and describing the myriad little critters it captured. "Many of these creatures so low in the scale of nature are most exquisite in their forms & rich colours," Darwin wrote.

The three-day scientific mission of the Tocorimé will also include a live linkup between the International Space Station passing overhead and classrooms in Brazil, the US and the UK.

Viewers can follow Kevin's progress on his blog,, and via Twitter feeds with the hash tag #beagleinbrazil

Twitter: @kzelnio @beagleproject #beagleinbrazil