Although most of the deep-sea – the ocean and seafloor deeper than 200 meters (650 ft) – remains unexplored, access to deep ocean waters is improving with new robotic tools, increasing our ability to explore and observe the deep-sea. Our team uses unmanned robots that dive to depths of 4 km to explore previously unobserved seafloor environments, with a goal of advancing our understanding of the diversity, biology, and ecology of animals inhabiting deep-sea habitats. Our studies span from Monterey Canyon, a submarine canyon equal in size to the Grand Canyon, to deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems flourishing on deep rocky reefs such as Davidson Seamount, or deep-sea hydrothermal springs that provide warmth for nesting abyssal octopuses.

We characterize the biological diversity and abundance of animals from video observations during our explorations and couple these with advanced robots to collect time-lapse images or measure metabolic rates of animals, or oceanographic sensors to measure currents and water conditions. Together, we hope to understand what animal life thrives in these habitats, what factors are key to their survival and growth, and how they may be impacted by various human activities – from trawling and pollution to climate change.

We work with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to focus on studies in key deep sea habitats and provide up-to-date information useful for their stewardship of deep-sea resources.

Know Your Ocean

Revealing the secrets of Sur Ridge

MBARI researchers are leveraging groundbreaking technologies to shed new light on Sur Ridge, a large rocky ridge that is a hotspot for marine life.



Barry, J.P., S.Y. Litvin, A. DeVogelaere, D.W. Caress, C.F. Lovera, A.S. Kahn, E.J. Burton, C. King, J.B. Paduan, C.G. Wheat, F. Girard, S. Sudek, A.M. Hartwell, A.D. Sherman, P.R. McGill, A. Schnittger, J.R. Voight, and E.J. Martin. 2023. Abyssal hydrothermal springs—Cryptic incubators for brooding octopus. Science Advances, 9(34): 1–13.

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Maier, K.L., K.J. Rosenberger, C.K. Paull, R. Gwiazda, J. Gales, T. Lorenson, J.P. Barry, P.J. Talling, M. McGann, J. Xu, E. Lundsten, K. Anderson, S.Y. Litvin, D.R. Parsons, M.A. Clare, S.M. Simmons, E.J. Sumner, and M.J.B. Cartigny. 2019. Sediment and organic carbon transport and deposition driven by internal tides along Monterey Canyon, offshore California. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 153(103108).

Stark, J. S., E.T. Peltzer, D.I. Kline, A.M. Queiros, E.T. Cox, K. Headley, J. Barry, F. Gazeau, J.W. Runcie, S. Widdicombe, M. Milnes, N.P. Roden, J. Black, S. Whiteside, G. Johnstone, J. Ingels, E. Shaw, L. Bodrossy, J.D. Gaitan-Espitia, W. Kirkwood, and J.P. Gattuso. 2019. Free Ocean CO2 Enrichment (FOCE) experiments: Scientific and technical recommendations for future in situ ocean acidification projects. Progress in Oceanography, 172: 89–107.


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