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Midwater research

Midwater ecology
Project Manager/Lead Scientist: Bruce Robison

The long-term goal of MBARI’s midwater research program is to develop an ecological model of the natural communities that occupy the oceanic water column. We have expanded the coverage of our previous field work on mesopelagic animals in the upper 1000 m of the water column, to include bathypelagic species down to 3500 m. These animals have never been studied with the kind of technology that MBARI possesses, and they represent the largest gap in our understanding of carbon flux through the oceanic water column.

ROV Tiburon will conduct video transects at bathypelagic depths.and begin to make quantitative measurements to elucidate bathypelagic community structure, function, and dynamics. This will allow us to determine the ecological links between Francisco Chavez’ upper water column studies, our mesopelagic studies and Jim Barry’s benthic community work.

Work on mesopelagic animals has shifted from surveys to process studies. Laboratory studies on the ability of gelatinous animals to take up dissolved organic compounds from seawater will continue. Oxygen consumption measurements of keystone species will allow us to factor energetics into our ecological model. 

Gelatinous zooplankton, tagged with acoustic transmitters, will be tracked with a diver in the water to monitor behavior. A major goal will be to return to a tagged animal for a second day of tracking. Divers will also collect Aurelia, Chrysaora, and Pelagia for long-term tagging studies done in the laboratory..