Seafloor biology research

A third group of marine biologists studies “benthic” animals and microbes that live on or within the seafloor.

Benthic Rover II

The Benthic Rover II is a fully autonomous underwater vehicle capable of back-to-back long-duration deployments to 4,000 m depth. It provides key data about carbon in deep-sea ecosystems.

Canadian Arctic 2016 Expedition

A group of MBARI scientists and engineers, led by geologist Charlie Paull, returned to the Beaufort Sea on a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker to study the Arctic seafloor.

Lost shipping container study

While observing the seabed at 1,300 meters depth during a dive with the ROV Ventana in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, researchers discovered a shipping container resting on the seabed.

Eclectic seamounts topics

Our expeditions to the sea floor result in biological as well as geological observations and collections. New fish and sponge species have also been discovered. In another study, deep sea coral on Davidson Seamount were examined and isotopes in their skeletons were used to study past climate change.

Antarctic research

Global climate change is causing Antarctic ice shelves to shrink and split apart, yielding thousands of free-drifting icebergs in the nearby Weddell Sea. These floating islands of ice are having a major impact on the ecology and chemistry of the ocean around them, serving as “hotspots” for ocean life.

Station M long-term time series

The Station M study is one of the most detailed investigations of any abyssal area in the world ocean. Over this 25-year study, we have continuously monitored the amount of sinking particulate matter through the benthic boundary layer.

Bone-eating worms

In 2002, MBARI scientists first observed two very odd species of worms living on the bones of a gray whale. Their trunks and brilliant red plumes produced a flowing "shag" carpets that covered many of the bones. The genus Osedax (Latin for bone eater) was formally described in 2004.

Gene flow and dispersal

Analyses of DNA sequences from nuclear and mitochondrial genes have allowed us to reconstruct the recent demographic history of species. Rates of gene flow, geographical patterns of differentiation, and interspecific hybridization have been documented now for a number of deep-sea animals that live at vents and seeps.

Pelagic-Benthic Coupling 2015 Expedition

June 17-26, 2015
MBARI's Pelagic-Benthic Coupling Group, led by Chief Scientist Ken Smith, is currently working on the R/V Western Flyer at Station M, located 200 kilometers off the coast of Santa Barbara, California.

Biology and ecology

The Benthic Biology Lab looks at the habitats and lives of deep-sea organisms. The cold, dark, deep sea is relatively unexplored, so much of our research aims to discover what is there and how it lives.


Upper-ocean systems
Acoustical ocean ecology
Acoustic instruments
Acoustic fingerprinting
Acoustic community ecology
Acoustics in the news
Biological oceanography
Global modes of sea surface temperature
Krill hotspots in the California Current
Nitrate supply estimates in upwelling systems
Chemical sensors
Chemical data
Land/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory in Elkhorn Slough
Listing of floats
SOCCOM float visualization
Periodic table of elements in the ocean
Biogeochemical-Argo Report
Profiling float
Interdisciplinary field experiments
Ecogenomic Sensing
Genomic sensors
Field experiments
Harmful algal blooms (HABs)
Water quality
Environmental Sample Processor (ESP)
ESP Web Portal
In the news
Ocean observing system
Midwater research
Midwater ecology
Deep-sea squids and octopuses
Food web dynamics
Midwater time series
Respiration studies
Zooplankton biodiversity
Seafloor processes
Revealing the secrets of Sur Ridge
Exploring Sur Ridge’s coral gardens
Life at Sur Ridge
Mapping Sur Ridge
Biology and ecology
Effects of humans
Ocean acidification, warming, deoxygenation
Lost shipping container study
Effects of upwelling
Faunal patterns
Previous research
Technology development
High-CO2 / low-pH ocean
Benthic respirometer system
Climate change in extreme environments
Station M: A long-term observatory on the abyssal seafloor
Station M long-term time series
Monitoring instrumentation suite
Sargasso Sea research
Antarctic research
Geological changes
Arctic Shelf Edge
Continental Margins and Canyon Dynamics
Coordinated Canyon Experiment
CCE instruments
CCE repeat mapping data
Monterey Canyon: A Grand Canyon beneath the waves
Submarine volcanoes
Mid-ocean ridges
Magmatic processes
Volcanic processes
Explosive eruptions
Hydrothermal systems
Back arc spreading ridges
Near-ridge seamounts
Continental margin seamounts
Non-hot-spot linear chains
Eclectic seamounts topics
Margin processes
Hydrates and seeps
California borderland
Hot spot research
Hot-spot plumes
Magmatic processes
Volcanic processes
Explosive eruptions
Volcanic hazards
Hydrothermal systems
Flexural arch
Coral reefs
ReefGrow software
Eclectic topics
Submarine volcanism cruises
Volcanoes resources
Areas of study
Bioluminescence: Living light in the deep sea
Microscopic biology research
Open ocean biology research
Seafloor biology research
Automated chemical sensors
Methane in the seafloor
Volcanoes and seamounts
Hydrothermal vents
Methane in the seafloor
Submarine canyons
Earthquakes and landslides
Ocean acidification
Physical oceanography and climate change
Ocean circulation and algal blooms
Ocean cycles and climate change
Past research
Molecular ecology
Molecular systematics
SIMZ Project
Bone-eating worms
Gene flow and dispersal
Molecular-ecology expeditions
Ocean chemistry of greenhouse gases
Emerging science of a high CO2/low pH ocean