The ocean’s midwater is considered to be the largest habitable space for life on earth, yet it is also one of the most minimally explored marine environments. Collecting specimens in this region is incredibly challenging, as many open ocean species are quick, fragile, and small. Keeping a midwater animal alive for study at the surface is a difficult task due to changes in pressure or damage that may occur during collection. In spite of the challenges, species sampling from the midwater is necessary for helping scientists obtain all kinds of information. Understanding the diet, life span, reproduction, and growth of an animal can only be determined with a live specimen. Obtaining this knowledge can help assess the risk of extinction and provide a baseline on the health of the ecosystem, especially in very remote regions of the ocean that are challenging for people to access. Understanding the baseline health of the midwater environment is especially important for discussions on international policy, management, and stewardship of the high seas– regions of the ocean that do not fall under any one country’s jurisdiction.
Sampling in the mid-water today is mostly performed the same way it was 30 years ago, but recently, scientists and engineers have been working on new methods to improve the way we collect and understand marine species. In 2019, Co – Principal Investigators Brennan Phillips (University of Rhode Island), Kakani Katija (MBARI), Robert Wood (Harvard University), David Gruber (City University of New York/Baruch College), and their teams of interdisciplinary researchers voyaged aboard R/V Falkor to test new technologies that allow them to study open ocean species in situ, something that had never been done before. In August, they will return to Falkor to test improvements made to the technology since the 2019 expedition, and continue to refine the next generation of technologies for ocean exploration.
More about the research HERE.