News archive – 2011


Diving into the Sargasso Sea

The Sargasso Sea is an ocean within an ocean, bounded not by land masses but by a vortex of swirling ocean currents—a place where mats of seaweed drift on the high seas and shelter a unique community of open ocean animals.

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A deep-sea valentine

The velvety red of a drifting jelly, the brick red of a vampire squid...many deep-sea creatures exhibit the colors of Valentine's Day. When pursuing the prey object of their desire, deep-sea creatures may use red as camouflage.

Blowing the lid off underwater volcanoes

Nature rarely hands over her secrets without a fight. Solving our planet's mysteries means doggedly following clues that may only reveal a small part of the story.

New MBARI video: Let's get together

Biologists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) use remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to observe marine life behavior in the deep sea.

Bone-munching worms from the deep sea thrive on fish bones

A new study by scientists at MBARI, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Occidental College is painting a more complete picture of an extraordinary sea worm that makes its living in the depths of the ocean on the bones of dead animals.

MBARI helps create new ocean-monitoring system in New Zealand

On April 11, 2011, a team of researchers installed a small but high-tech ocean-monitoring buoy in Tasman Bay, at the northern end of New Zealand's South Island. This buoy, along with additional instruments in the water column and on the seafloor, comprise the TASCAM (TASman Bay, CAwthron, and MBARI) system.

New device helps oceanographers get their instruments back from the depths

Getting heavy objects down to the seafloor is pretty easy—in a best-case scenario, you just drop them over the side of a ship, and hope that they land right side up on the ocean bottom. However, getting those same objects back to the surface can be problematic. MBARI Marine Operations Technician Mike Conway recently developed a new device called a "line elevator" that will make this process easier.
A small iceberg with old blue ice that was chosen for an ROV dive.

Antarctic icebergs help the ocean take up carbon dioxide

The first comprehensive study of the biological effects of Antarctic icebergs shows that they fertilize the Southern Ocean, enhancing the growth of algae that take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then, through marine food chains, transfer carbon into the deep sea.

Unique three-way partnership yields new ocean-monitoring buoy

In late May of 2011, MBARI and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) installed a new ocean-monitoring buoy about 30 miles offshore of Monterey Bay. This collaborative effort, brokered by the Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS), could pave the way for similar buoys maintained by NDBC around the country, providing a wealth of new scientific information.

Photos from MBARI's 2011 Open House

On June 25, 2011, MBARI hosted its annual open house, providing the public with a once-a-year opportunity to visit the MBARI campus and talk with scientists, engineers, and marine operations crews about their work. These photos show some of the displays and activities that captivated kids and adults alike.

MBARI engineers provide software for new ALOHA ocean observatory

On June 6, 2011 the ALOHA Cabled Observatory (ACO) "went live,"returning data from instruments on the deep seafloor, about 60 nautical miles north of Oahu, Hawaii, and 4,800 meters below the ocean surface. Funded by the University of Hawaii and the National Science Foundation (NSF), the ALOHA observatory uses a retired telecommunications cable to provide data and electrical connections for a variety of research instruments.

Increasing the odds of squid reproduction in the deep sea

Most of the squid we know as “calamari” are shallow-water species that live near the shore. These species have short lives. Once they mature, after about a year, they experience a single brief breeding period then die. But many more squid species live in deep water and the details of their lives, particularly their mating behavior, are shrouded in mystery.

Widespread floats provide pieces of the oceanic productivity puzzle

Ken Johnson uses chemistry to study biology. This unusual approach is helping him understand why and how much microscopic algae grow in different parts of the world ocean. With the entire ocean as his sample bottle, Johnson's challenge is determining where to monitor. Ideally, to get enough data, he needs to sample everywhere, simultaneously and continuously. By enlisting the help of some robotic floats, Johnson is on track to doing just that—and all from the comfort of his office chair.
ocean-three dancers350

MBARI dances to another beat

It's hard to imagine two fields of endeavor that have less in common than ocean research and contemporary dance. But an unusual melding of the two in the Monterey Bay area are addressing a grave concern: The ocean’s health.

First controlled experiments on ocean acidification in the deep sea

After six years of design and testing, MBARI scientists have a sophisticated new tool for studying the effects of ocean acidification on deep-sea animals. This complex system, the Free-Ocean Carbon Enrichment (FOCE) experiment, is the only experiment in the world that allows researchers to study ocean-acidification impacts on deep-sea animals in their native habitat, using free-flowing seawater.
This large, purple acorn worm can grow to over 30 centimeters (1 foot) long, and was videotaped about 3,000 meters below the surface near the Hawaiian islands. It uses its large, fleshy "lips" to feed on a thin layer of sediment that collects on deep-sea lava flows. Image: © 2001 MBARI.

A bountiful harvest of deep-sea acorn worms

Acorn worms have historically been thought of as shallow-water animals that live in burrows in muddy-bottom areas. Only four species were known to live in deep water. However, a recent paper by MBARI collaborator Karen Osborn and her coauthors shows that acorn worms live in the deep ocean environments around the world.

Turning tides on ocean acidification

Marine researchers want to know the effects of an increasingly acidic ocean, and have turned to two tide pool dwellers for some insight. It appears that mussels and purple sea urchins could tell scientists how marine life might adapt to changes in ocean acidity (pH).
MBARI's mapping AUV underwater, during a cruise off Southern California

Seafloor-mapping robot yields a host of new geologic discoveries

MBARI’s seafloor mapping robot has had a busy year. It documented a huge lava flow from a three-month-old volcanic eruption off the Oregon coast; it charted mysterious three-kilometer-wide scour marks on the seafloor off Northern California; and it unearthed data that challenge existing theories about one of the largest offshore faults in Central California.