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  • richardmitnick 12:02 pm on September 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A Dive with SuBastian", , , Schmidt Ocean Institute   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: “A Dive with SuBastian” 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    Necker Ridge: Bridge or Barrier?

    9.17.19
    Virginia Biede

    1
    Schmidt Ocean Institute

    ROV SuBastian, the Research Vessel Falkor’s Remotely Operated Vehicle, is designed for the efficient collection of scientific data at depths up to 4500m. The yellow robot is currently being used to understand the similarities and differences across large features of the deep sea. Recently, researchers have asked, are the communities on either end more similar to each other or more dissimilar? Using samples collected throughout the dives as well as videos at the bottom, this question can be investigated.

    Following a single dive of SuBastian takes the team through multiple natural environments. Like moving from the desert up the peak of a mountain, changing depth (or altitude) changes the surrounding environment. As you would not expect to be able to wear the same outfit at the top of a mountain as you would in a dessert at its base, the same is true of the ocean. So what does SuBastian see as it travels downward? What sort of data is it collecting and sending back to researchers on board?

    2
    ROV SuBastian is deployed in the Central Pacific. On this dive SuBastian heads down for an exploratory dive on MPM5 (Mid-Pacific Mountain) to survey deep-sea coral communities. SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    Going Down

    SuBastian is lowered into a foamy sea of small waves and warm water. In this region, the surface waters are crystal blue and lack the characteristic green of nutrient-full waters. Here, there are fewer nutrients – and so lower concentrations of phytoplankton – swirling around the yellow sub. Already, even on the surface with waves lightly crashing over its yellow frame, the ROV is collecting information on the temperature, pressure, and surrounding water chemistry, including the saltiness, number and type of minerals around it, as well as how much oxygen is in the water for organisms to breathe.

    Scientists wave at SuBastian as it leaves the surface and via fiber optic cables, they check all equipment onboard. The manipulator arms of the ROV wave back to those onboard Falkor: each turbine is checked, systems are run, and the lights get turned on. The lights may not be necessary on the surface during the day, but as the vehicle slowly sinks through the water, the daylight starts to fade into a zone of constant night.

    In this region of darkness, pelagic swimming animals reign. The water is much colder than surface waters, and have several more atmospheres of pressure weighing on it from the water above. Squid and jellyfish float by the screen, sometimes dazzling with swaying tentacles and self-created lights.

    3
    A squid briefly appears before SuBastian’s cameras, on the ROV’s descent towards the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

    Selective Sampling

    Sliding through the black waters, SuBastian collects important scientific data before even reaching the seafloor. Each region of the water it is moving through has different characteristics that a variety of species and organisms prefer to live within. The water column is layered, with nutrients and oxygen changing along with the changing temperature and pressure. Just as you would not expect to find a desert lizard in the cold arctic, a pelagic fish that swims at the surface (such as a sunfish) cannot survive the greater pressure and colder temperatures of the bathyal zone from 200 to 2000m. As the CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) sensors take measurements in deeper waters, these fast moving pelagic organisms become more rarely seen.

    At the seafloor, SuBastian is able to start collecting video transects while also photographing the different species on the sediment and the rocks. The ability to send cameras to such depths revolutionized the sample collection methods for the deep-sea scientific community. No longer reliant on highly disturbing trawls or sleds, researchers are using remotely operated vehicles with cameras, gliding through the water and leaving the seabed community intact. The specimens collected are only those required to verify what was seen in the murky waters through ranging video quality. Each specimen provides multiple samples for genetic analyses and taxonomic samples, as well as samples for museums and other institutions. The team also collects in-hand identification and verification.

    As SuBastian rises back from the seafloor, researchers hurry to prepare workstations and workflows, so that their samples can be organized as soon as possible after the ROV reaches the deck. Using buckets of chilled water and long tweezers, each sample is extracted from their individual box on the frame of the ROV. At the end of the day, 12 to 24 hours of bottom community videos have been collected. The column of water the ROV moved through has been measured for important water chemistry and environmental parameters, too.

    4
    PhD candidate Nicole Morgan retrieves the samples from SuBastian’s bio-boxes. Deep-sea ecologist Virginia Biede observes. SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    This work can then be used to answer the questions of which species occur at each site, and in what numbers, allowing for comparisons between sites. Samples collected by SuBastian can tell us whether the geography of this region is indeed a “bridge or barrier.”

    5
    Nicole Morgan shares tips with Virginia Biede on how to collect samples from a glass sponge specimen. SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    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 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 3:08 pm on September 14, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bailey Skinner, , Schmidt Ocean Institute,   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: Women in STEM “On Board for the First Time” Bailey Skinner 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    9.13.19
    Bailey Skinner

    Howdy! My name is Bailey Skinner and I a am junior environmental geoscience major at Texas A&M University. When I am done with school, I would like to go into ocean conservation work, so when Dr. Roark presented this opportunity to aid him in this research on deep-sea corals, I knew it was something I would not be able to pass up. Seeing the Falkor for the first time in person was a bit of a surreal and humbling moment – I knew right then that any nerves I had about coming on this expedition were instantly calmed.

    I have been living on the Falkor for almost over a week now, and have already learned so much. Each day has been something new and since I am on the 0:00-12:00 shift adjusting my sleep schedule. After unpacking all the equipment in the wet lab, we were given a run-through on how to process the samples once the ROV is back on deck. After Falkor left the harbor, the XBT, Expendable Bathythermograph, had to be calibrated. The XBT measures temperature through a water column and uses copper wires to transmit the data back to the ship as it is falling to the sea floor. This probe plays an essential role in multibeam mapping, such that the sound speed in water be calculated to the multibeam sonar gives accurate depth measurements.

    2
    You don’t get a lot of sun during the 0:00-12:00 shift, but then again, no one inside Falkor’s Control Room does! OI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    During our 70-hour transit to our first dive site, one of the marine technicians taught us how to use the multibeam mapping system in two different programs: Qimera and Fledermaus. This software is important because after the XBT data is sent over and the calibration of the USBL, Ultra-short baseline – the tracker for the ROV, the multibeam echo sounder (MBES) should be ready to map the seafloor. These two pieces of software help to visually interpret the 3-D mapping of the seafloor. Once all of the background noise is removed, the maps can be used to find slopes of terrain for the ROV dives.

    3
    Marine Technician John Fulmer explains how to process bathymetric data to members of the current research team. SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    With all of that being said, let me tell you a little about the star of the show: SuBastian. This is the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) going down – deep down – into the Midnight Zone of the ocean, about 2000-4000 meters deep. ROVs were first developed for industrial processes (e.g.. internal and external process of underwater pipelines), but now ROVs have a wide range of applications, many of which are scientific. ROVs allow scientists to investigate areas that are too deep for humans to reach safely, and these machines can stay underwater much longer than a human diver, thus increasing time efficiency for exploration.

    I am eager to keep learning all that I can while aboard the Falkor, as it feels I have just begun to scratch the surface of the vast amount of knowledge that is on this vessel. By my next update I will have gotten a lot more hands on experience with sample processing and seeing SuBastian dive down a few times.

    Thanks and Gig’em!

    4
    Bailey Skinner helps in the processing of samples collected during ROV SuBastian’s dives. SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    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 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 2:40 pm on September 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Schmidt Ocean Institute   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: “Transecting time” 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    Necker Ridge: Bridge or Barrier?

    9.10.19
    Mónika Naranjo González

    1
    Schmidt Ocean Institute

    For the crew, one of the many perks of working onboard Falkor (apart from the satisfaction of aiding the advancement of science) is that each expedition is unique. Every new cruise brings with it new people to meet, new science to learn, and new logistical challenges to overcome. This is something the team is completely familiar with, yet something about the Necker Ridge expedition still feels different.

    2
    Necker Ridge. https://www.sciencedirect.com

    Both the 24-7 operations and intense involvement of everyone onboard make an this extremely busy mission. However, once SuBastian hits the water, time seems to expand and slow down. The strategy in which the scientists are exploring the seafloor may be part of this phenomenon.

    3
    During the Necker Ridge expedition, scientists will be looking at the megafauna community composition and distribution. SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez.

    Meticulous and Replicable

    “We’re very selective in where we deploy the ROV, because even if we’re covering a fair bit of ground, once you go back and you look at the aerial expanse of the seamount, we are still seeing just a relatively small percentage of it,” explains Brendan Roark, chief scientist. “One of the other things we’re careful about doing is what we think will be representative transects.”

    Flying Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) SuBastian over the seafloor almost uninterruptedly feels very different from the ROV’s more common operation, which is to dive, explore, sample and come back over the course of around eight to ten hours. The way the dives are currently planned is of course not a whim, but a carefully designed strategy.

    ROV SuBastian is exploring this area of the ocean for the first time, which means the scientists have to be very discerning when it comes to choosing the diving spots. After processing high definition bathymetric maps acquired with the ship’s multibeam echosounder, the team looks for geological features that might suggest the presence of megafauna. Such features include hard substrate or structures that might increase the flow of currents (hence benefiting filter-feeders).

    Once the scientists choose a location, they dive along a contour line for a set distance. This is a meticulous process in which they do not even change the ROV’s camera angle. Being systematic in how they are observing the community composition at different depths is critical. This is an exercise that they replicate in each seamount – by keeping the navigation and dive characteristics consistent, the scientists can make a direct comparison from seamount to seamount, as well as making their technique replicable.

    4
    The team must first acquire high resolution bathymetric images with Falkor’s multibeam echosounder. Then they can choose a location to dive in.

    Non-Stop

    Because of their previous work experience, the ROV team is very familiar with these types of dives. “This is not uncommon in the ROV world,” shares Russ Kjell, who supervises the ROV team. “However, we have not done so many transects with SuBastian.”

    Hovering 1.5 to 2 meters over the seafloor can be tricky, “Especially if the ships takes a heave, the vehicle is programmed to compensate for that, and you don’t have much room to maneuver, so it could actually plunge into the seabed,” Russ explains. “But what we’ve done is dialed the controls back so it’s very light, yet even if it does want to go back to the seabed it won’t go beyond a certain point.”

    Diving long transects over unknown territory poses its own particular challenges. The pilots must be very aware of the sonar and what it is showing up ahead so they can adjust the ship’s position, its speed, and the ROV accordingly. The ROV team keeps in constant communication with the officers on the Bridge, who maintain Falkor heading in the right direction and at the right pace, in spite of the elements.

    5
    Russ Kjell keeps an eye on the ROV at all times, communicating constantly with the officers on the Bridge. Erik Suits and Captain Allan Doyle, in this case. SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    “These types of dives can actually be easier,” shares Erik Suits, navigation officer. “You are moving with the water, instead of holding position like in most ROV dives.” That is, until the different forces that affect the vessel begin complicating the scene. During one of the dives, the currents were pushing Falkor in one direction while the wind pushed and yawed it. Both forces were opposing each other by about 120 degrees. Keeping an eye on every factor at the same time is fundamental.

    Weather conditions might also change during the course of such long dives. Recovering SuBastian while wrestling with surface currents of over two knots helps shake things up and breaks the cadence of the prolonged operations. Time then accelerates while the vehicle is tested and prepared for its next mission, and the scientists swiftly recover the samples and process them in the wet lab.

    After that, time stretches again, and a transect is drawn over the silhouette of a previously unexplored seamount.

    6
    What would be ocean exploration without a little bit of adventure? Recovering ROV SuBastian from strong surface currents is one of them.
    SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    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 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 11:06 am on August 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Deep Coral Diversity at Emperor Seamount Chain, , Schmidt Ocean Institute   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: “From Mesocale to Naked Eye” 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    Aug 16, 2019
    Christine Lee

    Deep Coral Diversity at Emperor Seamount Chain 2019

    1
    Hawaiian seamount chain. Wikipedia

    We have passed the halfway mark of our cruise’s journey having sailed over 3,200 nautical miles during the past eighteen days. The Schmidt Ocean Institute’s ROV SuBastian [below] has made eight dives so far to depths ranging from 1500-2400 meters deep at the seamounts; Hess Rise, Suiko (north end), Suiko (south end), Yomei, Godaigo, Nintoku (deep), Nintoku (shallow), and Jingu. I was able to witness an amazing show – in real time – of the ancient and young corals, sponges, and other deep sea life observed through the ROV Cam. I can not imagine now how any other live streaming video can compare to seeing nature’s beauty in the deep ocean. Read on to learn about the first two projects I have started while onboard the Falkor, inspired by eddies and by some of the collected specimens we have acquired from the dives.

    2
    HES 102-1 sample: Paragorgia with Brittle Star collected during the Hess Rise dive Christine Lee

    Mesocale

    The swirling of ocean water into currents that flow in a somewhat circular motion are known as mesoscale eddies, with the rotation dependent on the temperature and salinity of the water masses inside and outside the eddy. Cold eddies rotate cyclonically and warm rotate anti-cyclonically. I have been embroidering on paper the estimated averages of the eddies located in the rough area our cruise has been conducting dives. I am using the gradient numbers that characterize the Bell curve for each eddie calculated by Glenn Carter, associate professor in the Department of Oceanography at UH Manoa, to determine the stitching pattern. Since our region of research is in the northern hemisphere, I use cooler tones stitched counterclockwise for eddies under the sea surface and warmer tones stitched clockwise for eddies above.

    3
    In progress: My hand-stitched map of eddies within our research regio Christine Lee

    Naked Eye

    During each dive, the ROV collects specimens as designated by the scientists watching through the live video feed, observing the organisms in their habitat. After the specimens have been documented and preserved, I have been capturing some of them using the Autodesk photogrammetry program ReCap Pro to create an archive of 3D scans, and ROV Supervisor Jason Rodriquez has helped me to 3D print them at various scales. Chief Engineer Allen, with Fitters Edwin and Alex, modified a piece of equipment to create a small platen press where even pressure is applied to transfer a low relief pattern or texture to the surface of a piece of paper or other thin substrate. We used this process to transfer the surface topology of the 3D printed object made from the HES102-1 sample to paper, as well as to a piece of tin sheet. I am now preparing a series based on the antiquated look of ceiling tins to reference how the corals we observe today may become extinct and part of our history.

    4
    Chief Engineer Allen and Fitter Edwin helping me to create a blind embossing on paper with the 3D printed model. SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    5
    3D printed object made from the HES102-1 sample (left) and blind embossing paper test (right). Christine Lee

    6
    Tin sheet test embossing. Christine Lee

    Coming Up…

    When we observe these corals, sponges, and other organisms, there are similar characteristics they share – yet when their DNA is analyzed, they may be from totally different families. I am curious about this occurrence as well as another research question begging to be investigated on board: how does the environment trigger similar morphology across diverse species? Of the variety of characteristics exhibited by the collected specimens and viewed in situ, I am amazed by their surface quality, textures, and colors. We are able to see these with a light source from the ROV, but what do the inhabitants “see” in the deep dark abyss? Perhaps textures and touch interactions are one of the threads that connect us. Stay tuned for the next blog to read about the other projects I have started looking at inspiration from micro to the molecular!

    7
    Christine Lee threading the shapes of the different eddies in this region, inside the diameter of one of Falkor’s portholes. SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    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 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 9:38 am on August 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Biogeography, , Emporer Sea Mount, , Schmidt Ocean Institute   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: “Not Azoic” 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    8.11.19
    Mónika Naranjo González

    Dr. Les Watling observed patiently as the ROV team ran through the pre-dive checklist, making sure ROV SuBastian was ready to complete another successful mission to the deep sea. After hours of high resolution multi-beam mapping, the experts on board zeroed in on one promising area of the Suiko seamount: a rough protrusion near the top, which could produce a disruption in the flow of the current, lifting nutrients from the seafloor and creating favorable conditions for the growth of octocorals. As ROV SuBastian entered the water, Dr. Watling said: “It’s all going to be interesting, no matter what we find.”

    4
    NDSU

    The dive was informative, but not particularly exciting from a visual point of view. Although there were a fairly high number of octocoral colonies observed, they were very small, most of them white, and generally only two species. This did not dampen the motivation of the team, as they did find one very important clue: after verifying samples using microscopy, they can confirm that one of the primnoid octocorals they collected from 2280 meters depth is in the genus Arthrogorgia. Arthrogorgia is previously known only from the Aleutians, which brings them one step further in their quest to locate the boundary that divides the biodiversity observed on the Aleutian slope from the life they have found on the Hawaiian Ridge.

    1
    Dr. Les Watling, Chief Scientist, observes while ROV SuBastian goes to all of its pre-dive checks. SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    Uncovering the pieces

    Biogeography is a branch of geography that studies the past and present distribution of the world’s many animal and plant species, therefore shedding light on the natural habitats around the world. Each biogeographic region represents an area of animal and plant distribution that has similar or shared characteristics throughout. Inside each region, ecological communities have the same climatic conditions and geologic features that support species with similar life strategies and adaptations.

    2
    This is the first time a seamount on the Emperor chain has been explored using an ROV.

    3
    NDSU

    In the past, samples have been collected using destructive trawling practices.

    Biogeography is essential in understanding why species are at their present locations, as well as in developing protection and management plans for natural habitats. “The biogeography of the shallow part of the ocean has been known for a long long time,” explains Dr. Watling. “The problem is that up until six or seven years ago there was no general scheme for biogeography in the deep part of the ocean.” Dr. Watling’s team proposed two large biogeographic areas for the North Pacific, and locating the transition or the boundary between those two areas is important to understanding our oceans in general and in particular for conservation purposes.

    Organisms evolve according to the water they live in, which is why Dr. Watling has put together an interdisciplinary team that will not only be able to identify the lifeforms SuBastian encounters but the characteristics of the environment itself. The team knows that for six months of the year, the North Pacific is very productive due to the great amount of sunlight it receives, which enables primary production from phytoplankton in the surface of the ocean. Nutrients produced in the sunlit layers of the ocean are ultimately exported to the deep seafloor through different natural mechanisms, which would suggest that abundant life could thrive on the deep seafloor. Still, literally, no one knows. A search for Octocorallia in the Ocean Biogeographic Information System quickly reveals that no research has been conducted in this underwater mountain range. The Emperor Seamounts are empty, with absolutely no records.

    3
    A quick search in http://www.OBIS.org for research on octocorallia at a depth between 1000 to 11000 thousand meters, shows nothing over the Emperor Seamounts. The only data point is actually a mistake, it signals a research that took place in the South Pacific Ocean.

    Water Wall

    About halfway across the Emperor Seamounts, there is a current stream that flows from either West to East, or from East to West. Since no water flows from North to South, it is referred to as a water wall – a sort of gyre separates this part of the Pacific from the rest of the ocean, and it has done so for a long time. Fish and corals here are completely different; they have evolved in isolation through geological time.

    For the longest time, the deep sea was thought to be azoic, or nearly so. It is dark and food poor, with little primary production. It is under extremely high pressures (20 to 1000 atm), and is cold (4° to 1°C). The only “look” that experts used to see into the abyss was samples collected by trawl nets, which would scoop the sea bottom. However, they used a mesh size that was too wide to retain the small organisms that inhabit the muddy floors. With no small organisms collected, they assumed that there was nothing much to be found in the depths of the ocean.

    Today we know otherwise: the deep sea is the largest ecosystem on Earth. Species diversity is higher in some places of the deep sea than in shallow water, which is at least surprising, if you consider how difficult it is to have access to nutrients down there. Once a life-form developed a solution to get access to food, you could think that would be the prevailing life form and not much diversity would ensue. “Maybe it is not just one single adaptation that would solve the problem,” reflects Sarah Bingo, a research associate at the University of Hawai’i School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. “Maybe the environmental conditions are so challenging that it becomes necessary for the organisms to develop a variety of evolutionary solutions to the different problems, and actually the difficult access to food actually enables biodiversity”.

    There is a big reason behind the research of these unexplored seamounts in such a remote part of the Earth (and the search for the boundary or transition area) that are much bigger than simply a mystery-solving inclination. Nowadays, the deep sea faces a vast amount of anthropogenic threats such as trawling, pollution, warming, mining and fishing. Having access to scientifically verified information that drives policy and conservation is becoming increasingly urgent. In order to enable policy makers to take the best decisions while striking the right balance between conservation and sustainable use of the deep sea, it is first necessary to understand how this these ecosystems work, and where the difference pieces of the biogeographic puzzle lie.

    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 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 9:19 am on August 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Five Things To Know About This Expedition", , , Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain or the Emperor Seamounts., Schmidt Ocean Institute, The Aleutian Ridge near Alaska in the far North Pacific.   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: “Five Things To Know About This Expedition” 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    8.3.19
    Mónika Naranjo González

    Falkor will spend sixteen very intense days mapping and exploring seven of the Emperor Seamounts, an ambitious goal that requires covering a long distance over the ocean simply to get to the first destination. Just about halfway, there will be a quick stop at Hess Rise, where ROV SuBastian will dive for the first time around this unexplored underwater mountain, enabling those watching to get a taste of what is to expected to come. In the meantime, here are five things you should know about the Deep Coral Diversity at Emperor Seamount expedition:

    1: There appears to be a definite, yet invisible boundary – and we are here to find it.

    In the past, scientists have studied deep-sea corals that live in the Aleutian Ridge, near Alaska in the far North Pacific; they have also studied corals that live in the Central Pacific, around Hawaii. They have found that the species of corals in those two places are completely different, so they are want to discover the location where this transition between North and South species occur. The Emperor Seamounts form a chain that runs from North to South, and they are the only seamounts connecting both Aleutian and Hawaiian ridges.

    2
    The trail of underwater mountains created as the tectonic plate moved across the Hawaii hotspot over millions of years, known as the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain, or the Emperor Seamounts. USGS.

    The experts suspect that somewhere along the chain there is a boundary that separates the biodiversity, creating two completely distinct biogeographic areas in the North Pacific Ocean. The team will reach a northern section of the Emperor Seamount Chain and begin a series of ROV dives, moving south. They will observe and describe the lifeforms they encounter in hopes of determining where the boundary between the coral communities is.

    3
    These are both coral species known as Bamboo Corals. The one on the left was found on the Hawaiian Ridge and is between two to three meters tall. The one on the right was locate in the Aleutian Trench and is much smaller, as shown in the scale. Scott France.

    2: Seamounts are clusters of life.

    There is a reason why ROV SuBastian is visiting seamounts so often. Seamounts are very important underwater geological structures that gather a concentration of deep-sea life. When water currents come across a seamount, they are forced to go around (or over) it to continue their course. The higher flux of water concentrates nutrients, which is very attractive for marine life to consume. Depending on their depth, seamounts are known as “aggregating devices” for fish, which is why many times they will be the focus of deep-sea trawling and fisheries. The acceleration of currents will also create a “wind sweep” effect, preventing sediments from accumulating and providing corals with the kind of hard substrate that enables them to colonize and expand. Given the fact that corals are ecosystem engineers, where the corals form, a suite of deep-sea life will follow.

    3: This expedition is full of first times for crew, researchers, and science.

    There are many reasons why this research cruise is going to be special. One is the fact that it will have many first’s. One example is that this will be the first expedition for Jason Garwood as Captain. “It is a new challenge for me, a new position, and I’m enjoying it very much,” he shares. “It is a ship I trust, and more importantly, a crew I trust.”

    3
    Jason Garwood has years of experience as a seafarer and onboard Falkor, yet this is his first expedition as Captain. SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez.

    New experiences are also in store for the ROV team. This will be the first time that Jason Rodriguez leads SuBastian’s team, and that Cody Peyres supervises the operations. For Zach Bright, it will be the first time he flies an ROV for scientific purposes, which supposes a very different way of maneuvering and interacting with the environment. “It’s a lot more fun!” shares Jason Rodriguez.

    Special personnel (a.k.a. the scientists and Artist-at-Sea) will also be adding a milestone to their progress. This is the first time that Becca Lensing and Christine Lee go to sea, and the first days have proven challenging as the two wait patiently for their sea-legs to kick in.

    Last – but certainly not least – this will be the first time that many of these seamounts are mapped in high resolution, and it will be the very first time they are explored with a Remotely Operated Vehicle. One thing is for sure, many discoveries will be made over the course of the next few weeks.

    4
    Jason Rodriguez, Zach Bright and Cody Peyres will all be fulfilling new roles within the ROV team.
    SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    4: No Tech, No Seamount (or “Know Tech, Know Seamount”)

    Everything we know about these seamounts has come from indirect observations that technology has made possible. The scientists have been able to identify the different communities that inhabit the area based on samples collected through deep-sea trawling. They are also aware of the very presence of the seamounts themselves because of satellite altimetry, which provides a rough estimate of the size and shape of the structures. Today, technology will enable the experts to test their hypothesis and study the seafloor in ways that are not only exponentially more precise, but much less invasive. ROV SuBastian avoids any collisions or interactions that impact the ecosystem and will take only the samples that are absolutely necessary. The vehicle’s cameras and lights permit detailed observations that would have been impossible just a few years ago. By identifying environmental DNA, (DNA signatures suspended in the water), the scientists will be able to detect what kind of lifeforms have been present in the area. Examining the core of small coral samples, the scientists will be able to determine water properties dating back hundreds or even thousands of years. Those are but a few examples of how technology will be positively essential in the advancement of our knowledge of this area in particular, and of the ocean and planet Earth in general.

    5: Remote Yet Relevant

    Even though these ecosystems may seem very far and removed from human experience, they actually play an important role in human life. There is still much we ignore (or do not comprehend) about the deep sea, but we are beginning to understand that it plays a fundamental role in the overall health of the oceans, on which we depend. By visiting these sites, scientists are able to survey biodiversity and discover practical applications for that knowledge. For instance, microbes that live on the corals are capable of producing novel compounds that, from a biotechnology standpoint, could potentially become new antibiotics or cancer therapeutics. Understanding what lives below the water on the Emperor Seamounts will influence management decisions, and will produce a baseline that will inform us of changes in the communities due to climate change, deep-sea mining, deep-sea trawling, or any other factors. If we decide not to care and ignore what is down there, we may lose many of the resources that are available and that we will need in the future.

    5
    Dr. Les Watling, Principal Investigator of this expedition, runs the plan by his team.

    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 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 11:23 am on August 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Almost Alien- Deep Coral Diversity at the Emperor Seamount", A single baby coral lands on an ever-so perfect spot and very quickly goes about making copies of itself (after changing from a larval form into a polyp)., , Schmidt Ocean Institute   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: “Almost Alien- Deep Coral Diversity at the Emperor Seamount” 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    8.1.19
    Nicole Morgan

    The deep sea. Dark. Silent. Unless of course there is a Remotely Operated Vehicle streaming the excited “oohs” and “aahs” of scientists seeing their favorite animals for all the internet to hear. I make all kinds of squeaky noises when I first see a coral forest being lit up by the vehicle’s LEDs; the forms of octocorals and black corals in the deep can easily invoke comparisons to an alien landscape.

    1
    This is not another planet, but our own. 70% of Earth is water, and this is a view of octocorals deep down on the ocean’s floor.

    Teamwork

    In general, I find corals so very interesting because of the colonial aspect of their nature. A single baby coral lands on an ever-so perfect spot and very quickly goes about making copies of itself (after changing from a larval form into a polyp). These polyp copies then work in tandem to build a structure for themselves that should provide the most optimal layout for getting food and surviving the elements. For shallow-water octocorals in coastal areas, that often results in springy tree-forms than can survive waves crashing over them, or soft, pillowy forms with almost no hard parts. For deep-sea corals, where waves are not a concern, these corals can form towering but fragile trees, or spindly skyscrapers with few to no branches at all.

    2
    Bamboo corals on the Hawaiian Ridge can be two to three meters high. Oceanos Explorer 2019

    The polyps on the colony generally function independently, but they share tissues in order to transport nutrients and messages throughout the whole colony. A disturbance at one end can quickly be related throughout so that all the polyps close up in a defensive position against whatever is bothering them (In my experience it as been a manipulator arm of a deep-sea vehicle).

    3
    These bamboo coral polyps are not having any of it. Oceanos Explorer 2019

    I am also fascinated by deep-sea seamount ecosystems as a whole. There are still many gaps in our knowledge about how the ecosystems function and why certain species are where they are. Why do corals and sponges settle in one place but not in another? Why do they thrive in certain areas? Are there succession states, similar to terrestrial island colonization?

    We Have Made Contact

    Something we do understand, however, is that these ecosystems are highly vulnerable to human activity. In the Emperor Seamounts – where we are for this research cruise – trawl fisheries have been active since the 1950’s. The boats use very large nets that are weighted down by steel plates or heavy wheels called “bobbins” which keep the net open and close to the sea floor. This gear is then dragged repeatedly over the seamount to capture fish such as Alfonsino, Oreo, Rockfish, Grenadiers, and Armourhead. Included in the capture, however, are also bycatch of corals, sponges, and non-target fish species. The corals and sponges provide habitat for fish, crustaceans, brittle stars, and other animals, but they are slow-growing (i.e. millimeters of growth per year) and larval settlement does not happen frequently. The frequent damage caused by trawling prevents regrowth, and the scale of damage could mean entire seamount summits wiped clean.

    4
    Trawling is a highly destructive practice. Infographic by Dan Foley for Oceana EU

    We will be searching for coral on these dives at deeper depths than trawlers currently fish, but with the demand for more fish, as well as the development in technology, fleets are moving deeper and deeper. I am hopeful we will find healthy communities that continue to provide important habitats as well as other ecosystem services like carbon sequestration and nutrient recycling. Regardless of their importance, they are also simply gorgeous natural systems that I will always feel extremely lucky to have the chance to see. If we can come together to protect more of our oceans from damaging activities, those ecosystems will be there to amaze and inspire future generations.

    5
    Nicole Morgan is a Ph.D. Candidate in the lab of Dr. Amy Baco-Taylor with the Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science department at Florida State University. SOI / Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

    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 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 9:42 am on July 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Carving the Seafloor", , Artist-at-Sea aboard R/V Falkor, David Bowen, , Schmidt Ocean Institute   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: “Carving the Seafloor” 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    7.12.19
    David Bowen

    1

    My name is David, and I am currently the Artist-at-Sea aboard R/V Falkor!

    The goal of my project as an Artist-at-Sea participant is to create CNC (computer numeric controlled) carvings of the seafloor that we pass over on our transit from Astoria to Honolulu. R/V Falkor is using a multi-beam sonar array to scan the seafloor during the entire transit. This system essentially sends out ultrasonic pulses to the ocean floor. These pulses bounce back to the ship within a certain time. The time it takes the pulses to get back is based on the distance that they travel. Thus, each pulse gives a specific depth, collected as a data point, based on how long it takes to get back to the ship. Latitude and Longitude information is assigned to each point giving a precise location of the depth. Thousands of these points assembled together create a point cloud. Following a few steps, from this point cloud, a three-dimensional model can be derived.

    2
    The computer software that takes the multibeam bathymetry data and changes it into readable steps for the CNC machine.

    I have set up a CNC machine aboard Falkor to produce carvings of these 3D models derived from the sonar data collected from the ocean floor during Falkor’s transit. The CNC machine uses stepper motors to precisely control a cutter along X (Latitude), Y (Longitude), and Z (Depth) coordinates. Using parallel passes, much like an inkjet printer, the CNC machine can carve very detailed surfaces.

    3
    The CNC machine

    The next steps are to convert the point cloud data gathered by the multi-beam sonar into a 3D model file type recognized by the software used to generate the toolpath for the CNC machine. A toolpath or G-code is essentially a series of steps for the machine to follow telling it where to make cuts as it carves into the surface of the material. The CNC machine will be carving pink extruded polystyrene. I chose this material because it is easy to carve, has a nice finish, and as an artificial material, it has a strong formal contrast to the natural seafloor that is being carved.

    The CNC machine has the potential to create a lot of dust while carving. Therefore, I have setup a durable and robust dust collection system for the machine.

    My hope for this project is to allow people to picture the ocean floor in a whole new way. When you can watch the seafloor being carved by the CNC, you can imagine the seafloor being formed hundreds of thousands of years ago.I look forward to see how the piece evolves while at sea.

    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 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 5:25 pm on July 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Schmidt Ocean Institute   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: “Bringing the Bubbles Home” 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    Observing Seafloor Methane Seeps at the Edge of Hydrate Stability

    7.6.19
    Amanda Demopoulos

    7
    USGS scientist Amanda Demopoulos, lead scientist for this expedition, sits at the bow of the R/V Falkor. Shelton Du Preez / Schmidt Ocean Institute

    As the R/V Falkor passes Cape Disappointment back into the mouth of the Columbia River, with Astoria rising in the background, I reflect back on our 21 days at sea. And what comes back to me the most is I never knew there was so much that can be studied about bubbles.

    2
    R/V Falkor

    2
    USGS scientist Amanda Demopoulos, lead scientist for this expedition, unloads several push cores taken from the sediment at the ocean floor by ROV SuBastian. Shelton Du Preez / Schmidt Ocean Institute

    “I have studied animals at seeps on most of the United States continental margins and looked at meiofauna to the megafauna. It had never occurred to me that there were scientists out there doing the same for bubbles. But thanks to the work of USGS, Schmidt Ocean Institute, and our partners at the British Geological Survey, GEOMAR, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, I’m getting to see just how much can be done with these bubbles.”

    Seep Science to Scale

    We have really done something impressive here with these seeps. It is pretty rare that a group of scientists can combine so many disciplines to study this specific type of environment in so many ways.

    3
    Just a sampling of the scientists and equipment of this expedition into methane seeps on the Cascadia Margin
    From Left to Right: USGS biologist Jennie McClain-Counts, USGS benthic ecologist Amanda Demopoulos, British Geological Survey geologist Diana Sahy, OSU/NOAA marine geochemist Tamara Baumberger, CCU graduate student Charlotte Kollman, USGS/NAGT intern Penny McCowen, and USGS research oceanographer Nancy Prouty. Shelton Du Preez / Schmidt Ocean Institute

    We have Bill and the Falkor mapping all of these bubble plumes from the seeps. Diana and Nancy are looking at what made the seeps and how the seeps then make the rocks that surround them. Jens and Tim are quantifying how much methane is coming out and where it is going. Tamara is looking at the methane itself, what is in it and how it formed. Howard and Adam are looking at what is eating the methane and how fast they are doing it. And Jennie and I are looking at what depends on the seeps for habitat and food, either directly or indirectly.

    4
    A multibeam map of Astoria Canyon 500, created by USGS scientist Bill Danforth from data collected by R/V Falkor.
    Bill Danforth / USGS

    “And the best part of this is that we are creating this incredible dataset that will be able to be scaled from an individual seep to entire regions. We will be able to use our work to predict habitats based on profiles of plumes and associated seafloor characteristics and then apply that all across the U.S. Pacific margin, and maybe even in the Atlantic too.”

    Personal Focus

    “This has been a truly rewarding experience for me. I have never had the opportunity to focus on a habitat system so intricately. Our Astoria Canyon 500 site is the perfect example. We’ve mapped the heck out of it; I do not think there is a square inch that Bill and the Falkor have not scanned and rescanned with the multibeam sonar.”

    5
    USGS scientist Amanda Demopoulos, lead scientist on this cruise, helps unload the collections from a Grays Canyon dive by ROV SuBastian. Shelton Du Preez / Schmidt Ocean Institute

    “Plus we have been able to spend 12 hours here, then revisit the site to see what has changed a few days later and investigate how the seeps behave at different times of day, thanks to the Gas Quant, Bubble Box and UNC Landers.

    Last but not least, we have been able to observe the animals that live here too, throughout the day and across multiple days, to see who is here, where they are living, and what they are eating.”

    Next Steps

    So what’s next? Well, quite a lot of lab work, that is for sure. Thanks to Falkor’s facilities and wonderful ROV team, we have been able to collect a tremendous array of samples, from gas to clams to rocks. Now we will be taking that back to our various labs and analyzing the samples to answer critical questions.

    For example—What created the system that fuels these seeps? How does the methane migrate through the sediments to be emitted at the ocean floor in the first place? Nancy and Diana’s work will tell us the history of these rocks and sediments. If Tamara finds more helium, that might indicate that some of these seeps include gas from deep in the zone where two tectonic plates interact on this margin.

    Another question is whether chemical and biological processes work differently at the seafloor than when the samples are in the lab? Howard and Adam’s experiment at the seafloor is the first time we have been able to measure the rate of a bacterial process important for methane dynamics at the actual pressure, temperature, and environmental conditions at which they actually occur.

    6
    Howard Mendlovitz, Research Engineer in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of North Carolina and Amanda Demopoulos, Research Benthic Ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collecting clam samples from the dive at Heceta, one of the areas of focus for seepage. Shelton Du Preez / Schmidt Ocean Institute

    Finally, how are seeps connected to the broader ocean ecosystems? We have seen in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico that seeps create extensive ecosystems, composed of a diversity of habitat types, including bacterial mats, tubeworms, clams, and authigenic carbonate, and by expanding on previous research in the region, we have confirmed that in a big way here in the Pacific. However, the degree to which these benthic habitats interact with the water column in terms of transferring carbon, or energy, to mid-water organisms, such as pelagic fishes and invertebrates, is unclear.

    For instance, do creatures living in the mid-water column descend to feed on the communities around the seeps, then swim up to the feed on the surface communities? If so, then that means the nutrients created at these deep seeps may well end up playing an important role near the surface too. This would have significant implications for overall ocean health.

    Going Forward

    It is important to remember that not that long ago the seafloor was thought to be an empty abyssal plain, devoid of life and features. If you have followed along during SuBastian’s livecasts, you have seen how wrong that perspective is. The more we map and study the seafloor, the more we find out just how full of life and activity it is.

    In fact, in just the last five years, we have discovered hundreds of these methane seeps on the U.S. Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico margins. How important are these seeps in the overall biological activity of the ocean? How do the seeps tie into the geologic forces that move our planet? These are the questions that we have sought to address on this cruise with Schmidt Ocean Institute and on past cruises with other partners.

    I hope you have enjoyed following along as we have discovered new seeps, rediscovered old seeps, and gathered staggering amounts of new data. We have years of work ahead of us, but thanks to the support of Schmidt Ocean Institute and all of our collaborators here, we have had a great start. Thank you to the wonderful crew of the R/V Falkor and ROV SuBastian, and thank you to Schmidt Ocean Institute for enabling this incredible research opportunity.

    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 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 2:14 pm on June 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Food webs are almost always defined by where they get their carbon, , , Schmidt Ocean Institute, Spinning a Food Web Nearly Three Thousand Feet Underwater   

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute: “Spinning a Food Web Nearly Three Thousand Feet Underwater” 

    From Schmidt Ocean Institute

    6.14.19
    Amanda Demopoulos

    1
    USGS scientist Jennie McClain-Courts prepares to collect samples from ROV SuBastian onboard R/V Falkor. These samples have just come up from the seafloor of Astoria Canyon off the coast of Oregon. Shelton Du Preez / Schmidt Ocean Institute

    Schmidt Oceam Institute ROV Subastian

    Schmidt Ocean Institute RV Falkor

    Our focus on this cruise is the methane seeps, but they are inextricably linked to many other aspects of the ocean floor. The deep-sea food web, which is the intricate network of living things that rely on each other for food, is very often anchored by the methane that comes from the seeps.

    “Food webs are almost always defined by where they get their carbon. For most communities, they rely on sunlight. Sunlight fuels photosynthesis in plants, which then serve as the primary food source for animals,” Jennie explained. “But these guys, they live so far underwater that sunlight doesn’t get to them. So they have to find an alternate source of carbon.”

    2
    Methane bubbles up from a cold seep in the Astoria Canyon.

    Enter the Methane Seeps

    Carbon in the methane is eaten by a variety of creatures, from one-celled organisms to larger creatures. They in turn serve as food for other creatures, like shrimp-like amphipods and polychaetes, which are segmented worms. Jennie has seen ecosystems like this before, on other deep-sea cruises that looked at methane seeps in the Atlantic and northern Gulf of Mexico.

    .2
    USGS scientist Jennie McClain-Courts and Coastal Carolina University student Charlotte Kollman collect sediment samples from ROV SuBastian on board the R/V Falkor. Shelton Du Preez / Schmidt Ocean Institute

    “I think it’s really interesting how these food webs have developed around this chemosynthetic, or methane-based habitats,” said Jennie. “But what I also find most fascinating is how similar each community is. I’m always looking forward to studying the biodiversity at these seeps.”

    Jennie points out some white mats that coat the sediment samples. They stand out quite a bit from the black mud. “These are white Beggiatoa, a kind of bacteria. I’ve seen them at the methane seeps in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico too. Even though each of these places and the US Pacific margin are different in some ways, we see these same Beggiatoa near seeps in each location.” When asked what else we can expect to see near these seeps, she begs off. “It’s too soon to tell, but check back in a week after we’ve made a few more dives.”

    3
    White beggiatoa mats cover the seafloor of Astoria Canyon off the coast of Oregon. These mats appear to be more widespread than when a previous sampling cruise came through in 2016. ROV SuBastian / Schmidt Ocean Institute

    Shaped by Their Environment

    Moving to the rest of what ROV SuBastian brought up, Jennie takes out several strikingly orange starfish as well as a dozen or so white snails. The starfish prey on the amphipods and other creatures living in the seafloor, forming another connection in the methane-based food web.

    4
    USGS scientist Amanda Demopoulos holds recently collected starfish and sediment samples collected by ROV SuBastian from the Astoria Canyon seafloor off the coast of Oregon. Shelton Du Preez / Schmidt Ocean Institute

    hese collections also have valuable information about their habitat, like what kinds of chemicals are in the sediments, in the waters, and in their food. It is this information about the ecosystem surrounding the deep-sea food web that our lead scientist and fellow USGS researcher Amanda Demopoulos hopes this cruise will shed some light on.

    “Living things don’t just affect their environment, they’re shaped by it too,” said Amanda. “If we want to understand why these animals live here and are able to thrive here, then we need to understand the physical and chemical parts of these seeps.”

    5
    USGS scientists Jennie McClain-Courts and Penny McCowen process sediment samples onboard R/V Falkor. Shelton Du Preez / Schmidt Ocean Institute

    Amanda would know – like Jennie, she is the veteran of many research cruises and has studied the same methane seeps in the Atlantic and northern Gulf of Mexico. “In the Atlantic, Jennie and I worked on understanding how the submarine canyons affected the ways that benthic, or seafloor communities got their food,” recalled Amanda. “We want to build on that research here in the Pacific.”

    Here on R/V Falkor, she will have that opportunity with the advanced methane-studying equipment and expertise available. Next, we will check in with the scientists who run some of that equipment. So make sure to come back to the cruise log each day!

    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 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.

     
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