Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Celebrating our 20th Anniversary
Judith Connor
Judith Connor in the Monterey Bay Aquarium auditorium describes research on Anthomastus, the soft coral in the background.
Image: ©1991 Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Exploring Monterey Canyon Program

Celebrating 20 years

Since 1989, MBARI and the Monterey Bay Aquarium have collaborated on an educational program that uses microwave communications and video from our remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to give the public a peek over the shoulders of MBARI scientists' work deep in the bay.

The prototype Live from Monterey Canyon program was developed as part of a one-week celebration of the Aquarium’s fifth anniversary in October 1989. MBARI engineer Gary Thurmond laid the groundwork by establishing a microwave connection that relayed video from the research vessel Point Lobos to the MBARI headquarters in Pacific Grove and then on to the Aquarium. In the Aquarium’s auditorium, the live video transmissions were displayed as two- by four-meter images on a large screen. Aquarium staff welcomed visitors, invited them to join the expedition, described the ongoing research, communicated by radio with scientists on the ship, and fielded questions from the audience.

Steve Webster, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s director of education at that time, remembers, “One of the most exciting aspects of my years at the aquarium has been our collaboration with MBARI. I recall the week we first fired up the microwave link with MBARI during the Aquarium's fifth anniversary celebration. David Packard was in the audience, and he was clearly excited about our fledgling program.”

After the program’s trial run, MBARI and Aquarium staff began work to enhance the program. The enhancements included a microwave antenna installed by MBARI engineers on Mount Toro to improve the range and quality of the live video signals from the ship. Additional interpreters, including some MBARI staff, were trained to interact with the audience which played a key role in diagram of microwave setupmaking Live from Monterey Canyon an effective educational experience. With the addition of touch screen access to a collection of video clips, still images, and notes from the MBARI archives, those interpreters had visuals at their fingertips to provide background for the “unscripted” live video from the vehicle deep in Monterey Bay. Radio contact with the ships gave the audiences a chance to direct their question to the researchers there. In 1992, Live from Monterey Canyon was recognized as the best education program by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Over the years, the program continued to evolve; its continuous 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. format was changed to shorter programs with clear start and end times. Even the program’s name changed over time, first to Exploring Monterey Canyon and then to Mysteries of the Deep, but its original nickname, “The Link Program” prevails. To keep the program’s images up-to-date, MBARI’s video lab technicians track new discoveries and spectacular images while annotating research dives. With the addition of high definition (HD) cameras on the ROVs, the video lab staff provided hundreds of bigger, brighter, high-resolution video images to the Aquarium program in 2006.

Is there a better way to showcase how new technology is advancing science than by a clear visual demonstration? This program allows the public to witness how researchers classify animals, how they test new instruments and set up complicated experiments on the deep seafloor. The high definition camera, combined with the incredible skill of the MBARI ROV pilots, gives Aquarium visitors a close-up view of life in the deep, even when the animal is 3000 meters underwater. Where else can you get into Earth's largest habitat and spend time with earth's truly typical organisms--the deep-sea animals? Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and see for yourself!

MBARI Contributors to the program: George Badger, Caren Braby, Judith Connor, Dennis Hunt, James Hunt, Linda Kuhnz, Lonny Lundsten, George Matsumoto, Mike McCann, Debbie Nail Meyer, Craig Okuda, Dan Orange, Jenny Paduan, Kevin Raskoff, Kyra Schlining, Jessica Bridges Silguero, Gary Thurmond, Susan von Thun

MBA Contributors to the program: Patti Allen, Ali Barratt, Frank Barrows, Ree Brennin, Jeff Bryant, Becky Cada, Paul Cain, Andy Case, Mike Chamberlain, Jacque Colbert, Jim Covel, Steve Dennis, Jeff Doyle, Lyla Englehorn, Gil Falcone, Tara Gardner, Forrest Gomez, Dave Gove, Marty Harrison, Dawn Hayes, Anthony King, Randy Kochevar, Gayle Lavelle, Karen Light, Sue Lisin, Rob London, Linda Martin, Aaron Micallef, Simone Mortan, Raúl Nava, Sally Nigg, James Perdue, Christine Perry, Ken Peterson, Paul Petro, Juliet Pool, Carmyn Priewe, Traci Reid, Pat Rutowski, Chuck Saltsman, Ed Seidel, Jane King Silberstein, Scott Stratton, Jaci Tomulonis, Bruce Upton, Gil Van Dykhuizen, Elsa Vineberg, Karin Wagner, Steve Webster, Dan Weinstein, Joe Welsh, Gavin Wuttken

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