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  • richardmitnick 12:27 pm on April 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The End and the Beginning", , , , Schmidt Ocean Institute   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: “The End and the Beginning” 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    Mar. 28 2019
    Samantha (Mandy) Joye

    Cruise Log-Microbial Mysteries: Linking Microbial Communities and Environmental Drivers.

    As we embarked on this expedition, I included the tagline mesmerizing landscapes and microbial wonderlands in the introductory blog post. I knew we were going to see things that made us gasp – vistas that left our jaws agape – but little did I realize how truly prophetic those words would be. I could never have predicted the breathtaking seafloor structures we would find. Big Pagoda, Alvin Spire, Ted’s Tower, Falkor’s Fountain… each new tower offered a new twist on the ‘mesmerizing landscapes and microbial wonderlands’ theme. We were continually surprised, catching our breath, and in awe of nature’s majesty.

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    We had a tremendously productive expedition. The fantastic Pagoda structures vented super-heated fluids along spectacular flanges. Despite extremely high temperatures and the fact that the fluids contained a mix of noxious chemicals, each Pagoda teemed with life – very colorful life: orange, pink, red, purple, and yellow. From microbial mats to Riftia tube worms, the bright, sharp colors reflect a potent biochemical capacity that permits life to thrive in these extreme habitats.

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    ROV SuBastian measuring the temperature at a hydrothermal vent in the Guaymas Basin. This black smoker vent was named “Falkor’s Fountain” (image from starboard side, looking to port, across the large flange at the top is fantastic).

    To the east of the Pagodas lies a valley of small chimneys and microbial mats. This area is characterized by a number of areas of diffuse flow, some noted by an abundance of small (1m tall) structures in this area also support Riftia colonies but, in general, this is the land of Beggiatoa, sulfur oxidizing bacteria extraordinaire.

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    A wide view of a field with a number of areas of diffuse flow, some noted by several small (<1m tall) chimneys. ROV SuBastian / SOI

    Another feature of this area has received far less attention though: the oil chimneys. We found several areas where the chimneys were saturated with oil. Taking a close look at these structures, it felt as if a Jackson Pollock painting had come to life. These chimneys are an exemplar in contrast – sharp color gradients, different textures, subtle topography. They are mesmerizing indeed.

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    ROV SuBastian sampling from a chimney in a small smoker field (ORP-2) surrounded by microbial mats in the Guaymas Basin.

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    This image of an oil-saturated chimney shows oil droplets and pink nematodes.ROV SuBastian / SOI

    But not everything we found was hot. A couple of hours to the North of Guaymas, along the Sonoran Margin, we discovered oil seeps and surface-breaching gas hydrate mounds along the seafloor. Like their hydrothermal cousins, cold seeps are locations where deeply sourced gas-charged fluids exit the seabed and interact with cold ocean bottom water. Here, however, instead of black smoke, we saw frozen methane ice and oddly, the crystals looked partially melted (though they were frozen). To me, this was just as magnificent discovery as the Pagodas.

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    An osmotic sampler works near a gas hydrate mound. ‘Osmo’ samplers draw hydrothermal fluids into small capillary-like tubing and allow long-term sampling of diffuse and black smoker hydrothermal fluids, as well as fluids from methane seeps.

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    A view of methane hydrates, which look similar to ice crystals. These are shaped a bit differently, leading the researcher to ask how they had been warped or melted. ROV SuBastian / SOI

    We did not just observe these structures and sites, we sampled hot fluids, cold fluids, rocks, sediments, biofilms, microbial mats, gas hydrate, seeping oil, and animals. We concentrated and isolated some components – viruses – for subsequent in depth examination in our home labs. We characterized the water column above the study sites to assess connectivity and to track the fate of hydrothermal- and cold seep-sourced energy-rich chemicals into bottom waters. Our detailed geochemical characterization, metabolic rate assays, and microbial community genomics data will help us understand how geochemical energy sources and fluxes drive patterns of microbial diversity and dictate rates of metabolism.

    The end of the expedition marks the beginning of months of collective effort that will result in publications that report our discoveries and advance the understanding of this remarkable system. Our sampling can be thought of as collecting the individual pieces that, when connected, constitute several complicated scientific puzzles. It will take us us months to years to assemble each one. The process of generating and analyzing these complex data sets and developing and advancing the resulting stories told by the data to publication represents the culmination of our Falkor-based work. As we synthesize all of the different data sets we will generate, we will achieve a more complete understanding of the Gulf of California system. And this understanding allows us to identify and frame exciting new questions that will address during next expedition to this incredible place.

    I cannot wait to go back!

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Our Vision
    The world’s oceans understood through technological advancement, intelligent observation, and open sharing of information.

    Schmidt Ocean Institute RV Falkor

    Schmidt Ocean Institute ROV Subastian

    Schmidt Ocean Institute is a 501(c)(3) private non-profit operating foundation established in March 2009 to advance oceanographic research, discovery, and knowledge, and catalyze sharing of information about the oceans.

    Since the Earth’s oceans are a critically endangered and least understood part of the environment, the Institute dedicates its efforts to their comprehensive understanding across intentionally broad scope of research objectives.

    Eric and Wendy Schmidt established Schmidt Ocean Institute in 2009 as a seagoing research facility operator, to support oceanographic research and technology development focusing on accelerating the pace in ocean sciences with operational, technological, and informational innovations. The Institute is devoted to the inspirational vision of our Founders that the advancement of technology and open sharing of information will remain crucial to expanding the understanding of the world’s oceans.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:54 pm on April 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: An unprecedented study of hydrothermal and gas plumes, , , , Every surface was occupied by some type of life, Gulf of California-Mexico, , Large venting mineral towers that reach up to 23 meters in height and 10 meters across, , R/V Falkor, ROV SuBastian, Schmidt Ocean Institute, The vibrant colors found on the ‘living rocks’ was striking and reflects a diversity in biological composition as well as mineral distributions, To get a true measure of methane and other volatile substances existing in the deep sea scientists need to capture the samples at the source, Witnessing these remarkable oceanscapes we are reminded that although they are out of our everyday sight they are hardly immune from human impact   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: “Otherworldly Mirror Pools, New Lifeforms, and Mesmerizing Landscapes Discovered on Ocean Floor” 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    April 2, 2019

    Scientists aboard Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor [below] recently discovered and explored a hydrothermal field at 2,000 meters depth in the Gulf of California where towering mineral structures serve as biological hotspots for life. These newly discovered geological formations feature upside down ‘mirror-like flanges’ that act as pooling sites for discharged fluids.

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    Hydrothermal vent fluid collects under these ledges and provides the chemical energy that drives the entire ecosystem of microbes, scale worms, and riftia.

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    (Schmidt Ocean Institute)

    While exploring hydrothermal vent and cold seep environments, Dr. Mandy Joye (University of Georgia), and her interdisciplinary research team discovered large venting mineral towers that reach up to 23 meters in height and 10 meters across. These towers featured numerous volcanic flanges that create the illusion of looking at a mirror when observing the superheated (366oC) hydrothermal fluids beneath them. The minerals across the features were laden with metals and the fluids were highly sulfidic, yet these sites were teeming with biodiversity and potentially novel fauna.

    3
    This image of an oil-saturated chimney shows oil droplets and pink nematodes. Nematodes are the most numerous multicellular animals on earth. Nematodes are structurally simple organisms and many of the known species are microscopic worms.

    “We discovered remarkable towers where every surface was occupied by some type of life. The vibrant colors found on the ‘living rocks’ was striking, and reflects a diversity in biological composition as well as mineral distributions,” said Dr. Joye. “This is an amazing natural laboratory to document incredible organisms and better understand how they survive in extremely challenging environments. Unfortunately, even in these remote and beautiful environments we saw copious amounts of trash including fishing nets, deflated Mylar balloons, and even a discarded Christmas trees. This provided a stark juxtaposition next to the spectacular mineral structures and biodiversity.”

    The expedition was an unprecedented study of hydrothermal and gas plumes, with researchers using advanced technology including 4K deep-sea underwater cameras and radiation tracking devices, as well as sediment and fluid samplers working via a remotely operated vehicle, ROV Subastian.

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    Schmidt Ocean Institute ROV SuBastian

    To get a true measure of methane and other volatile substances existing in the deep sea, scientists need to capture the samples at the source. The scientists were able to do this with a unique osmo sampler, a device that draws hydrothermal fluids into small capillary-like tubing, mounted onto the ROV. Several other in-situ experiments were performed, including a high throughput water filtration for viruses that allowed the team to reduce processing bias.

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    ROV SuBastian sampling from a chimney in a small smoker field (ORP-2) surrounded by microbial mats in the Guaymas Basin.

    From super-hot hydrothermal vents to slowly discharging cold seeps, the common thread of the sample collections involved studies of methane cycling. Hydrothermal fluids and gas plume samples all contained highly elevated concentrations of methane and surface-breaching methane hydrate mounds. Methane is a potent atmospheric greenhouse gas, 30 times the strength of carbon dioxide, and this study will advance the knowledge of the biological storage for methane in water column and sediment systems.

    6
    ROV SuBastian measuring the temperature at a hydrothermal vent in the Guaymas Basin. This black smoker vent was named “Falkor’s Fountain.”

    “It is a different world down there. Each dive feels like floating into a science fiction film,” said Schmidt Ocean Institute Cofounder Wendy Schmidt. “The complex layers of data we’ve collected aboard Falkor during this expedition will help tell the story of this remote place and bring it to public attention. Witnessing these remarkable oceanscapes, we are reminded that although they are out of our everyday sight, they are hardly immune from human impact. Our hope is to inspire people to learn more and care more about our ocean.”

    The team will now spend the next few months analyzing samples and plans to publicly share the results. As the different data sets are synthesized, scientists will generate a more complete understanding of the Gulf of California system. This understanding will be applicable to oceanic environments around the globe, as well as allow scientists to identify and frame exciting new questions.

    This work would not have been possible without the considerate authorization of the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores) to allow for marine scientific research to be conducted in their waters.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Our Vision
    The world’s oceans understood through technological advancement, intelligent observation, and open sharing of information.

    Schmidt Ocean Institute RV Falkor

    Schmidt Ocean Institute is a 501(c)(3) private non-profit operating foundation established in March 2009 to advance oceanographic research, discovery, and knowledge, and catalyze sharing of information about the oceans.

    Since the Earth’s oceans are a critically endangered and least understood part of the environment, the Institute dedicates its efforts to their comprehensive understanding across intentionally broad scope of research objectives.

    Eric and Wendy Schmidt established Schmidt Ocean Institute in 2009 as a seagoing research facility operator, to support oceanographic research and technology development focusing on accelerating the pace in ocean sciences with operational, technological, and informational innovations. The Institute is devoted to the inspirational vision of our Founders that the advancement of technology and open sharing of information will remain crucial to expanding the understanding of the world’s oceans.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:46 am on December 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Daniel Vogt, Falkor research vessel, , NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, , PIPA-Phoenix Islands Protected Area, , ROV-remotely operated underwater vehicle, Schmidt Ocean Institute, , Squishy fingers help scientists probe the watery depths,   

    From Wyss Institute: “Squishy fingers help scientists probe the watery depths” 2017 

    Harvard bloc tiny
    Wyss Institute bloc
    Wyss Institute

    October 28, 2017
    Lindsay Brownell

    Wyss researcher Daniel Vogt tests out soft robotics on deep sea corals in the South Pacific.

    As an engineer with degrees in Computer Science and Microengineering, Wyss researcher Daniel Vogt usually spends most of his time in his lab building and testing robots, surrounded by jumbles of cables, wires, bits of plastic, and circuit boards. But for the last month, he’s spent nearly every day in a room that resembles NASA ground control surrounded by marine biologists on a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, intently watching them use joysticks and buttons to maneuver a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to harvest corals, crabs, and other sea life from the ocean floor.

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    The squishy fingers are made of a soft, flexible material that is more dexterous and gentle than ROVs’ conventional grippers. Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute.


    Deep corals of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area: How Wyss Institute researchers are changing underwater exploration. Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute.

    This particular ROV’s robotic metal arm is holding the reason why Vogt is here: what looks like a large, floppy toy starfish made of blue and yellow foam. “Devices like this are extremely soft – you can compare them to rubber bands or gummy bears – and this allows them to grasp things that you wouldn’t be able to grasp with a hard device like the ROV gripper,” says Vogt, watching the TV screen as the “squishy fingers” gently close around a diaphanous bright pink sea cucumber and lift it off the sand. The biologists applaud as the fingers cradle the sea cucumber safely on its journey to the ROV’s collection box. “Nicely done,” Vogt says to the ROV operators.

    This shipful of scientists is the latest in a series of research voyages co-funded by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and the Schmidt Ocean Institute, a nonprofit founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt in 2009 to support high-risk marine exploration that expands humans’ understanding of our planet’s oceans. The Institute provides marine scientists access to the ship, Falkor, and expert technical shipboard support in exchange for a commitment to openly share and communicate the outcomes of their research.

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    Falkor is equipped with both wet and dry lab spaces, the ROV SuBastian, echosounders, water sampling systems, and many other instruments to gather data about the ocean. Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute.

    Vogt’s shipmates are studying the mysterious deep sea coral communities of the deep ocean, which live below 138 meters (450 feet) on seamounts which are mostly unexplored.

    The best place to find those corals is the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), a smattering of tiny islands, atolls, coral reefs, and great swaths of their surrounding South Pacific ocean almost 3,000 miles from the nearest continent. PIPA is the largest (the size of California) and deepest (average water column depth of 4 km/2.5 mi) UNESCO World Heritage Site on Earth and, thanks to its designation as a Marine Protected Area in 2008, represents one of Earth’s last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems. With over 500 species of reef fishes, 250 shallow coral species, and large numbers of sharks and other marine life, PIPA’s reefs resemble what a reef might have looked like a thousand years ago, before human activity began to severely affect oceanic communities. The team on board Falkor is conducting the first deep water biological surveys in PIPA, assessing what species of deep corals are present and any new, undescribed species, while also evaluating the effect of seawater acidification (caused by an increase in the amount of CO2 in the water) on deep coral ecosystems.

    The deep ocean is about as inhospitable to human life as outer space, so scientists largely rely on ROVs to be their eyes, legs, and hands underwater, controlling them remotely from the safety of the surface. Most ROVs used in deep-sea research were designed for use in the oil and gas industries and are built to accomplish tasks like lifting heavy weights, drilling into rock, and installing machinery. When it comes to plucking a sea cucumber off the ocean floor or snipping a piece off a delicate sea fan, however, existing ROVs are like bulls in a china shop, often crushing the samples they’re meant to be taking.

    This problem led to a collaboration between Wyss Core Faculty member Rob Wood, Ph.D. and City University of New York (CUNY) marine biologist David Gruber, Ph.D. back in 2014 that produced the first version of the soft robotic “squishy fingers,” which were successfully tested in the Red Sea in 2015. PIPA offered a unique opportunity to test the squishy fingers in more extreme conditions and evaluate a series of improvements that Vogt and other members of Wood’s lab have been making to them, such as integrating sensors into the robots’ soft bodies. “The Phoenix Islands are very unexplored. We’re looking for new species of corals that nobody has ever seen anywhere else. We don’t know what our graspers will have to pick up on a given day, so it’s a great opportunity to see how they fare against different challenges in the field.”

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    Daniel Vogt holds the ‘squishy finger’ soft robots aboard Falkor. Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute.

    Vogt, ever the tinkerer, also brought with him something that the Red Sea voyage did not have on board: two off-the-shelf 3D printers. Taking feedback directly from the biologists and the ROV pilots about what the soft robot could and could not do, Vogt was able to print new components overnight and try them in the field the next day – something that rarely happens even on land. “It’s really a novel thing, to be able to iterate based on input in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with no lab in sight. We noticed, for example, that the samples we tried to grasp were often on rock instead of sand, making it difficult for the soft fingers to reach underneath the sample for a good grip. In the latest iteration of the gripper, ‘fingernails’ were added to improve grasping in these situations.” The ultimate goal of building better and better underwater soft robots is to be able to conduct research on samples underwater at their natural depth and temperature, rather than bringing them up to the surface, as this will paint a more accurate picture of what is happening out of sight in the world’s oceans.

    PIPA may be somewhat insulated from the threats of warming oceans and pollution thanks to its remoteness and deep waters, but the people of Kiribati, the island nation that contains and administers PIPA, are not. The researchers visited the island of Kanton, population 25, a few days into their trip to meet the local people and learn about their lives in a country where dry land makes up less than 1% of its total area – a true oceanic nation. “The people were very nice, very welcoming. There is one ship that comes every six months to deliver supplies; everything else they get from the sea,” says Vogt (locals are allowed to fish for subsistence). “They’re also going to be one of the first nations affected by rising sea levels, because the highest point on the whole island is three meters (ten feet). They know that they live in a special place, but they’re preparing for the day when they’ll have to leave their home. The whole community has bought land on Fiji, where they’ll move once Kanton becomes uninhabitable.”

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    Daniel Vogt tests the squishy fingers on the forearm of CUNY biologist David Gruber, who spearheaded their development along with Wyss Faculty member Rob Wood. Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute.

    Research that brings scientists from different fields together to elucidate the world’s remaining unknowns and solve its toughest problems is gaining popularity, and may be the best chance humanity has to ensure its own survival. “One of the most eye-opening part of the trip has been interacting with people from different backgrounds and seeing the scientific challenges they face, which are very different from the challenges that the mechanical and electrical engineers I’m with most of the time have to solve,” says Vogt. “I’ve been amazed by the technology that’s on Falkor related to the ROV and all the scientific tools aboard. The ROV SuBastian is one-of-a-kind, with numerous tools, cameras and sensors aboard as well as an advanced underwater positioning system. It takes a lot of engineers to create and operate something like that, and then a lot of biologists to interpret the results and analyze the 400+ samples which were collected during the cruise.”

    Vogt says he spent a lot of time listening to the biologists and the ROV pilots in order to modify the gripper’s design according to their feedback. The latest version of the gripper was fully designed and manufactured on the boat, and was used during the last dive to successfully sample a variety of sea creatures. He and Wood plan to write several papers detailing the results of his experiments in the coming months.

    “We’re very excited that what started as a conversation between a roboticist and a marine biologist at a conference three years ago has blossomed into a project that solves a significant problem in the real world, and can aid researchers in understanding and preserving our oceans’ sea life,” says Wood.

    Additional videos detailing Vogt’s voyage, including the ship’s log, can be found here.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Wyss Institute campus

    The Wyss (pronounced “Veese”) Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering uses Nature’s design principles to develop bioinspired materials and devices that will transform medicine and create a more sustainable world.

    Working as an alliance among Harvard’s Schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Arts & Sciences, and in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Tufts University, and Boston University, the Institute crosses disciplinary and institutional barriers to engage in high-risk research that leads to transformative technological breakthroughs.

     
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