Exploration and Discovery
Exploration inevitably leads to discovery. MBARI is uniquely positioned to explore the deep-sea realm and its connections with the ocean surface. Easy access to Monterey Bay’s deep submarine canyon provides a natural laboratory for scientific research and engineering innovation. Developing and expanding our access to this undersea laboratory has been a primary theme since MBARI’s founding. Platforms and sensors for observing the deep ocean and for conducting interactively controlled in situ experiments are hallmarks of MBARI’s achievements. The continued use, development, and creative integration of these assets permit MBARI research teams to transcend many of the limitations faced by other scientists and engineers who endeavor to study marine environments.
Exploration of hydrothermal vents in Gulf of California
Video clips of animals at the Pescadero Basin and Alarcón Rise vent fields:
MBARI scientists have discovered two very different hydrothermal vent fields: one along the Alarcón Rise at the southern end of the Gulf of California and the other in the Pescadero Basin, just 75 kilometers to the north. Despite being relatively close together, these vents host very different animal communities. This finding contradicts a common scientific assumption that neighboring vents will share similar animal communities. Instead, a paper published this year suggests that local geology and the chemistry of the vent fluids are important factors affecting vent communities. They found that the vent fields support radically different animal communities, sharing only seven out of 61 animal species. Led by MBARI scientists, the research involved scientists from Mexico, Canada, Russia, and Germany.
Water depth, geology of the seafloor, temperature and chemistry of the vent fluids, and the ability of larvae from other vents to colonize the site all play roles in the composition of the animal communities found at particular vents. Given developing efforts to mine deep-sea hydrothermal vent fields for precious metals, the scientists involved in this research suggest that conservationists and management agencies need to consider a broader range of factors in their efforts to predict the environmental impacts and the resiliency of affected communities.