News archive – 2012


Scientists discover extraordinary new carnivorous sponge

Ten thousand feet below the ocean's surface, the seafloor is a dark, desolate, and dangerous place where even the most benign-looking creatures can be deadly predators. Recently, a team of scientists discovered an unlikely new carnivorous species— the harp sponge (Chondrocladia lyra).
This close up view shows a vampire squid using its arms to scrape food off of one of its filaments. Image: © 2008 MBARI

MBARI researchers discover what vampire squids eat (it's not what you think)

In the 100 years since marine biologists hauled the first vampire squid up from the depths of the sea, perhaps a dozen scientific papers have been published on this mysterious animal, but no one has been able to figure out exactly what it eats. A new paper by MBARI Postdoctoral Fellow Henk-Jan Hoving and Senior Scientist Bruce Robison shows for the first time that the vampire squid uses two thread-like filaments to capture bits of organic debris that sink down from the ocean surface into the deep sea.

MBARI researchers play key roles in international ocean-acidification meeting

Several hundred researchers and decision-makers from around the world are gathering in Monterey this week for the Third International Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World. MBARI researchers have been instrumental in the planning of this conference, and are describing their cutting-edge research in a variety of talks and posters at the meeting.

Expedition to study methane gas bubbling out of the Arctic seafloor

In the remote, ice-shrouded Beaufort Sea, methane (the main component in natural gas) has been bubbling out of the seafloor for thousands of years. MBARI geologist Charlie Paull and his colleagues at the Geological Survey of Canada are trying to figure out where this gas is coming from, how fast it is bubbling out of the sediments, and how it affects the shape and stability of the seafloor.

Tracking drifting algal blooms and the nutrients that keep them going

This month MBARI researchers are conducting a two-week-long, in-depth oceanographic experiment to track the nutrients that fertilize algal blooms off the coast of Central California. As part of MBARI's ongoing CANON (Controlled, Agile, and Novel Observing Network) initiative, scientists will be examining how ammonium—a key nutrient for microscopic marine algae—affects what researchers call the ocean's "biological pump."

MBARI researchers help design first field experiment to test the effects of ocean acidification on coral reefs

Many experiments have documented the effects of ocean acidification in the laboratory, but few have been performed in the natural environment. A recent article in Scientific Reports describes the first controlled field experiment to test the effects of acidification on coral reefs—a multi-institutional effort that involved several MBARI engineers and was based on pioneering work at MBARI.

MBARI researchers create the most detailed map ever of an underwater lava flow

Axial seamount, 480 km (300 miles) off the coast of northern Oregon, is one of the best studied underwater volcanoes in the world. Now MBARI researchers have created the world's most detailed map of an underwater lava flow, showing lava that erupted from Axial Seamount during April 2011. They describe this mapping effort and related geological discoveries in a recent paper in Nature Geoscience.

Harnessing the awesome power of the ocean waves

MBARI engineer Andy Hamilton looks out his office window in Moss Landing and points at the waves crashing on the beach below. “Pretty impressive, aren’t they? You’d think there’d be a way to make use of all that energy.” Since 2009, Hamilton has led a team of engineers trying to do just that.

MBARI discovers new deep-sea hydrothermal vents using sonar-mapping robot

“As the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) descended into the blue depths above the Alarcón Rise, the control room was abuzz with anticipation," wrote MBARI geologist Julie Martin in her April 22nd cruise log. "Today we [are] planning to dive on one of the strangest environments in the deep sea: a hydrothermal vent field.”

Robotic duo pinpoints plankton in Monterey Bay

Tiny animals called zooplankton swarm like insects in the coastal waters of the ocean. They provide dinner for a host of larger animals, ranging from fish to whales. But these microscopic organisms also challenge the scientists who study them because they are constantly drifting with the movement of ocean currents.

MBARI video wins international award

MBARI marine biologist Steve Haddock and research technician Susan von Thun's video, "There’s No Such Thing as a Jellyfish," recently won honorable mention in the National Science Foundation's 2011 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

MBARI researchers return to the Gulf of California

Following up on tantalizing discoveries made during a 2003 trip to the gulf, MBARI researchers will be returning to the Gulf of California in February 2012 for a three-month expedition.
Scientist Susan Von Thun scoops Sargassum samples.

MBARI researchers sail the Sargasso Sea

On January 30, 2012, a group of researchers led by MBARI marine biologist Ken Smith and engineer Alana Sherman left Bermuda and sailed south into the Sargasso Sea. This is Smith's third research expedition to this region using the research vessel Lone Ranger, operated by the Schmidt Ocean Institute.