DEEPEND Consortium

Creep into the DEEPEND: September 28 to October 9, 2015

Research Project: Deep-Pelagic Nekton Dynamics of the Gulf of Mexico

Students become part of the DEEPEND consortium, a group of deep-sea scientists investigating the biodiversity and distribution of animals in the Gulf of Mexico’s deep-sea ecosystem. The deep is by far the largest affected habitat from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The consortium includes more than 30 scientists from 11 different universities and agencies, led by Dr. Tracey Sutton (Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center).


Video courtesy of the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s Oceanscape Network

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A Salute to Coral

Hi Kids,

A coral Polyp. (Photo courtesy NOAA. Credit Chad King)

A coral Polyp. (Photo courtesy NOAA)

After following Dr. Frank and the Science Team’s Creep into the Deep research with NOAA-OE and seeing all the amazing photos including coral, I thought it’d be fun to test your knowledge about coral.

♥♥ True or False ♥♥

Coral is a plant. True or False?

False: Coral polyps are tiny, soft-bodied organisms related to jellyfish and anemones.

Corals only live in shallow water. True or False?

A deep-sea coral

False. Though many kinds of coral do live in shallower water, many others live deep in the sea.

Some corals can live thousands of years. True or False?

True. Deep-sea corals are the old souls of the sea!

Coral that lives in shallower water gets its coloration from algae. True or False?

A Hawaiian hogfish swims through the colorful coral reef

A Hawaiian hogfish swims through the colorful coral reef

True. Colorful algae called Zooxanthellae (pronounced: zõ-zan-thell-ee) live in coral polyps. The algae creates the beautiful colors in reef building coral and provides much of the energy the coral needs. Zooxanthellae gets its energy from the sun.

 Some corals build reefs (hard rock-like structures). Some corals do not. True or False?

True. The reefs most people think of are built by each polyp. Each polyp in reef-building corals creates a protective limestone cup-like external skeleton. The polyps live in a colony. Coral colonies grow over hundreds and thousands of years and join with other colonies and become reefs. like a giant living rocky city Some reefs began over 50 million years. Cool!

Now you know a lot more about coral.

See you next time,

Elusive Giant Isopod

Dear Virtual Science Team,

Photo 3 Giant Isopod Creep into the Deep 640 x 433Though we hoped to see many giant isopods so we could learn more about their vision. So far they have eluded us. Maybe on the next ROV dive or maybe the Medusa secretly videoed them dancing and singing after the ROV left!  Wouldn’t that cool?

Dr. Tamara Frank
Chief Scientist and Deep-Sea Explorer
Creep into the Deep Mission:
Bioluminescence and Vision on the Deep Seafloor 2015 Expedition, NOAA-OER

PS Click here to watch a fun video about giant isopods from our friends at the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s Oceanscape Network.

The Medusa

Hello Virtual Science Team,
MEDUSA  Creep into the Deep 640 x 383Today is the fifth day of our cruise and the Medusa is on her second drop. This is the first time for the Medusa to be in the Gulf of Mexico. The Medusa is a camera system designed to explore the deep sea in a new way – one that focuses on attracting animals instead of scaring them away.  I became interested in a different way of exploring after many years of diving in submersibles and using Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs). Both convinced me that animals were avoiding the bright lights and noisy thrusters on these standard exploration platforms.
My solution was a camera platform that was quiet and that could see without being seen by illuminating with red light that is invisible to most deep sea animals and that used an optical lure. MEDUSA Atolla and eJelly example  Creep into the Deep 640 x 339What’s an optical lure? It’s a ring of dim blue lights that imitates the bioluminescent burglar alarm display of a deep-sea jellyfish. The burglar alarm might startle the predator and entice bigger predators to swoop in for a quick meal of the would-be predator. When the e-jelly on the Medusa lights up, it lures animals closer so we can capture them on video.
It has been remarkably successful and has recorded some amazing things including the first video ever recorded of a giant squid in the deep sea!  We probably won’t see any giant squid on this mission but I’m always hopeful that we’ll see something completely new and exciting.
ANIMAL Cutthorat eel photo from Medusa Deep sea Shrimp Heterocarpus ensifer  Creep into the Deep 609 x 480Here is a photo from its first deployment on this cruise, a very cool eel.
It’ll be exciting to find out what else the Medusa saw in the deep!
Dr. Edith Widder
Marine Biologist and Deep-Sea Explorer
Creep into the Deep Mission:
Bioluminescence and Vision on the Deep Seafloor 2015 Expedition, NOAA-OER