Zooplankton Biodiversity Group
Steve Haddock, Principal Investigator
The ocean’s midwater zone is dominated by gelatinous predators such as ctenophores, siphonophores, and hydromedusae. These mysterious creatures still hold many secrets like how and why they make light, and how they survive in such an extreme environment. Which of these diverse groups are indicator species that will indicate the state of the ecosystem and potentially signal change? MBARI is the only institute that has had an ongoing dedication to understanding this habitat and addressing these difficult-to-study organisms in investigating this popular hypothesis about global change. Steve Haddock’s lab aims to characterize and monitor gelatinous plankton through two approaches. The first is to determine the identity and relationships of animals, so that they can be accurately recognized from ROV footage or future plankton monitoring technology. The second approach is to make use of existing MBARI data to “go back in time” and see what changes have already been occurring. Using emerging methods to identify gene information, we can determine the true diversity of the midwater habitat. This is important because, as many examples show, it is not possible to quantify organisms before we are able to recognize them accurately. We will also continue the development of broadly applicable tools that make use of MBARI’s unique video archives to study long-term trends. This 20-year time series contains data that allow the testing of relationships between species distributions and of hypotheses about long-term trends such as the shallowing of the oxygen minimum zone, the shift from fish to jellies and invasive species and range extensions.