Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Press Room
News from MBARI — 2013

This page summarizes recent discoveries, achievements, publications, and events at MBARI. Some of these are documented in news releases or full-length feature stories. Others are simply short news briefs that appeared on the MBARI home page.

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News Release — 9 December 2013:
Mapping the demise of the dinosaurs

About 65 million years ago, an asteroid or comet crashed into a shallow sea near what is now the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. The resulting firestorm and global dust cloud caused the extinction of many land plants and large animals, including most of the dinosaurs. At this week’s meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, MBARI researchers will present evidence that remnants from this devastating impact are exposed along the Campeche Escarpment—an immense underwater cliff in the southern Gulf of Mexico.
^This map shows locations of the Campeche Escarpment and the buried impact crater that caused a global extinction event about 65 million years ago.

News Release — 9 December 2013:
Survey of supposed deep-sea chemical munitions dump off Southern California reveals trash and 55-gallon drums, but no chemical weapons

At this week’s meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) describe a preliminary seafloor survey of an area off the Southern California coast marked on charts as a chemical munitions site. The initial survey turned up trash and 55‐gallon drums, but no chemical munitions. In addition to suggesting that not all marked sites contain chemical munitions, this study demonstrates that underwater robots can be used to survey such sites to identify areas of concern.
^This still image from video shows one of many 55-gallon drums that were lying on the seafloor in the area marked as a chemical munitions dump.

News Release — 11 November 2013:
Feast and famine on the abyssal plain

Marine biologists have long puzzled over observations that the amount of food sinking to the deep sea does not seem to be adequate to support all the all the animals and microbes living in deep-sea sediments. A new paper by MBARI researcher Ken Smith and his colleagues shows that short-term blooms of algae or animals near the sea surface can deliver as much food to deep-sea organisms as would normally arrive over years or even decades.
^A sea cucumber crawls among dead salps that sank from the surface waters, providing a feast for deep-sea animals.

News Release — 30 August 2013:
A deep-sea squid with tentacle tips that "swim" on their own

Many deep-sea animals such as anglerfish use parts of their body as lures to attract prey. In a recent paper, researchers associated with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) describe a deep-sea squid whose tentacle tips flap and flutter as if swimming on their own. The researchers hypothesize that the motion of these tentacle tips may induce small shrimp and other animals to approach within reach of the squid's arms.
^A Grimalditeuthis bonplandi squid with one of its tentacles extended.

Roman Marin III programs Environmental Sample Processor News Brief — 1 August 2013:
Environmental Sample Processors help prevent seafood poisoning

From June to September 2013, MBARI researchers are collaborating with government agencies, shellfish growers, and native tribes in the Puget Sound area to test a new method for detecting harmful algal and bacteria "blooms" using MBARI-developed Environmental Sample Processors (ESPs).
^MBARI Senior Research Technician Roman Marin III programs the Environmental Sample Processor at Taylor Shellfish Farms in Samish Bay, Washington. Image: Keith Maynard.

Visitors to machine shop during MBARI's 2013 open house News Brief — 24 July 2013:
Photos from MBARI's 2013 Open House

On July 20, 2013, MBARI opened its doors to the public, providing visitors with a once-a-year opportunity to talk with scientists, engineers, and marine operations crews about their work.
^Visitors peer inside a computer-controlled milling machine in MBARI's machine shop.. Image: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

News Release — 16 July 2013:
Fish-tracking robots take to the seas and skies off Portugal

A unique field experiment being conducted off the coast of Portugal this week combines ocean robotics and marine biology in a complex aquatic dance. Researchers are using a fleet of robotic vehicles to track over a dozen Mola mola (ocean sunfish) as they forage across the coastal ocean.
^A Mola mola (ocean sunfish) with a GPS tag attached. Over a dozen of these fish are being tracked during the REP-13 experiment.

News Release — 5 June 2013:
MBARI research shows where trash accumulates in the deep sea

Surprisingly large amounts of discarded trash end up in the ocean. Plastic bags, aluminum cans, and fishing debris not only clutter our beaches, but accumulate in open-ocean areas such as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch." Now, a paper by researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) shows that trash is also accumulating in the deep sea, particularly in Monterey Canyon.
^A discarded tire sits on a ledge 868 meters down in Monterey Canyon.

Close up view of giant tubeworms News Brief — 29 March 2013:
Deep-sea vent animals not as isolated as they seem

Miles below the ocean surface, diverse ecosystems flourish at hydrothermal vents. Without sunlight, animals live off of bacteria that thrive on chemicals billowing out of the Earth's crust. These strange communities appear entirely detached from life on land. However, new research from MBARI biologist Bob Vrijenhoek suggests that vent ecosystems might be more sensitive to global environmental change than scientists originally thought.

Feature Story — 20 March 2013:
The ECOHAB experiment—A first step toward predicting harmful algal blooms

Killing wildlife and occasionally sickening people, harmful algal blooms can be more than just a nuisance. The ECOHAB (Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms) research program is providing key information that may one day allow researchers to predict when and where blooms are likely to occur. During March 2013, ECOHAB researchers will be conducting a month-long study of harmful algal blooms in Southern California, using a variety of oceanographic tools and techniques developed at MBARI.
^Concentrations of chlorophyll, an indicator of algal blooms, over the San Pedro Shelf, during the March 2013 ECOHAB experiment.

Feature Story — 15 February 2013:
Jellyfish blooms pulse cyclically through time

A surge in jellyfish blooms over the past decade has spawned similar blooms of public fascination with these sea drifters and their apparent saturation of our oceans. Images of fish nets and nuclear-plant intake pipes clogged with gelatinous sacks of tentacles have flared concerns for fisheries and public safety. But recent work from an international team of marine scientists, including MBARI biologist Steve Haddock, suggests that this recent population explosion might only reflect half of the jellyfish story.
^A swarm of Chrysaora jellies swims near the surface of Monterey Bay.

Picoplankton under a high-powered microscope News Brief — 1 February 2013:
Diverse groups of marine microbes respond in unison to changes in their environment

The open ocean contains an amazing diversity of extremely tiny organisms called picoplankton. A new paper by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) uses cutting-edge genomic research to show how these infinitesimal creatures react in synchrony to changes in their environment.

Feature Story — 30 January 2013:
Underwater robots help discover hidden faults

Hidden beneath ocean waves and masked by sand and mud on the seafloor, underwater faults are notoriously difficult to see and even more difficult to study. As a result, geologists struggle to evaluate the risks associated with these faults and often can't include them in seismic hazard assessments. Now, with improved technology available for underwater imaging, MBARI geologist Charlie Paull and his colleagues at the U.S. Geological Survey have brought some of these hidden faults into view for the first time.
^Major faults within the California Borderland.

Last updated: Dec. 16, 2013