Midwater Respirometer System
The midwater respirometer suspended on its mooring 440 meters (1,440 feet) below the surface of Monterey Bay. Image: © 2011 MBARI[/caption]
Mountain climbers know that changes in temperature and pressure can affect their energy level and their ability to breathe. Animals that live in the deep sea face similar challenges when scientists bring them to the surface for study. To address this problem, MBARI researchers have developed a new instrument that allows them to study the breathing of deep-sea animals without removing the animals from their environment.
By studying an animal’s respiration (how much oxygen it consumes), scientists can better understand how much energy (food) it needs to live. The rate at which an animal expends energy is called its “metabolic rate.” “If you want to understand how an organism is consuming and utilizing energy to live its life, its metabolic rate is a vital measurement to have,” said Bruce Robison, an MBARI marine biologist.
Robison studies animals like jellies, shrimp, and squid that live in the midwater—the vast watery space between the ocean surface and the seafloor. Learning about the respiration and metabolism of these animals will help Robison and other researchers expand their meager knowledge of midwater food webs.
On August 7, the R/V Western Flyer headed to sea for a seven-day expedition with the Midwater Ecology research group, led by Bruce Robison. During this expedition, they plan to deploy the Midwater Respirometry System, conduct midwater transects, collect specimens for lab studies and for exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium, make in situ observations, and jig or trawl for squid at night. They also plan to deploy a small remotely operated vehicle (MiniROV) for shallow transecting and in situ observations.