Rénald Belley is a PhD candidate in Marine Biology at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and he is working with the Canadian Healthy Ocean Network. He is studying the small animals living within and on the muddy seafloor, from 100 to 2,500 meters below the surface of the ocean. He wants to discover the impact of these small animals on their environment in different deep-sea regions around Canada and answer questions such as who’s living in that mud, what do they do, and most importantly, does the number of species matter? These small animals living in that mud play an important role in recycling sinking animal and plant particles on the seafloor and maintaining a healthy ocean. The role of these animals is poorly understood, even though they live in the largest habitat on Earth.
To better understand the role of these animals, Rénald will collect mud cores from Saanich Inlet, the Strait of Georgia and in the Pacific Ocean off Vancouver Island. The mud cores will be collected using the underwater vehicle ROPOS that is controlled by engineers comfortably sited on the R/V Falkor at the surface. On board the R/V Falkor, he will measure the respiration of these animals and the speed at which they recycle food on the seafloor. This will tell us the number of species that are necessary to maintain the health of the seafloor, especially in low oxygen waters such as those found in the Pacific Ocean off Vancouver Island. This information will hopefully be used by decisionmakers to maintain a healthy ocean through better management of the seafloor.