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.

Squid graveyard—a boon for deep-sea animals

MBARI video describing the discovery of the “squid graveyard”

Researcher Henk-Jan Hoving, former postdoctoral fellow at MBARI and now a biologist at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany, usually researches the midwater (the zone between the surface and the bottom) for deep-sea squid, but this time he went to the seafloor. Hoving and the MBARI Midwater Ecology Group discovered 64 squid carcasses and remnants of squid egg sheets scattered on the seafloor in the Gulf of California. Because food is so scarce in deep water, the appearance of these squid and their egg sheets would seem to be a stroke of luck for animals on the seafloor. The scientists noted that the recently deposited squid carcasses had already attracted ratfish, acorn worms, brittle stars, sea cucumbers, crustaceans, and sea stars.

The team’s research illustrates a link between animals in the midwater and the seafloor. Sinking squid carcasses are part of what oceanographers and biologists call the “biological pump”—a process by which carbon is transported from the surface of the ocean to the depths. Conventionally, most carbon is assumed to drift slowly downward in the form of marine snow. But if large numbers of squid collect food in the midwater and then sink, this could speed up carbon transport in some areas or times of the year. “Squid may die almost simultaneously, so there may exist pulses of dead squid falling to the seafloor,” said Hoving. “This could have a big impact on the biological carbon pump.”

Related

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Cannibalism in the deep sea

Aug 31, 2016 - Cannibalism is not so unusual in the deep sea, especially for squid, but until recently the diet of Gonatus squid was largely unknown. Remotely operated vehicle observations of these squid in their natural habitat have enabled scientists to learn a great deal more about their feeding behavior.

Exploration and Discovery Projects

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Oceans of biodiversity

June 5, 2018 – In honor of World Oceans Day, MBARI researchers highlight the discovery of over 200 deep-sea animal species over the last 30 years.
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Eavesdropping on the deep

April 24, 2018 – Starting this week, anyone can eavesdrop on the sounds of the deep sea via a continuous streaming YouTube video that carries live sound from the depths of Monterey Bay.

Making an impact

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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.
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Climate change

Climate-driven changes in upwelling, ocean mixing, oxygen minimum zones, and nutrient cycling are likely to affect the year-to-year variation in ocean ecosystem processes. These changes will potentially impact marine life and the fundamental underpinnings of fisheries from shallow to deep-sea habitats.
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Ocean health

One of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s long-term goals it to restore the health and productivity of the world ocean, on which all live depends. MBARI research results have contributed to raising public awareness about the health and future of the ocean.