Dr. Phillips and his team are looking to create a paradigm shift in how researchers perform midwater exploration. The ‘twilight’, or mesopelagic zone, is receiving renewed interest from the oceanographic community. There are numerous undescribed species dwelling in the pelagic zone beneath the limits of technical SCUBA diving, and improved survey methods have highlighted the biomass that exists in the twilight zone and beyond.
In June, Falkor will return to the Phoenix Islands under Chief Scientist Randi Rotjan. The scientific objectives include continuing to investigate deep-sea microbes’ therapeutic potential; examining how ancient cold water corals survive predation by corallivores; and enquiring into the equator’s effect on the ecology of deep coral and sponge communities.
The upper continental slope and shelf edge of the southern Great Barrier Reef is largely unknown and poorly mapped. After a successful expedition mapping the northern Great Barrier Reef, R/V Falkor will traverse to the southern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
The Cape York Peninsula lies in the far northern Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Marine Park. The peninsula is one of the most isolated regions of the Australian continent and little is known about what lies in the offshore deeper waters. Scientists consider these deeper waters to be a frontier area of the GBR.
As ocean temperatures increase, a pressing global challenge in marine science is to better understand the distribution and characteristics of the critical habitats that support mesophotic and deep-water coral communities.
Within Australia’s largest marine reserve, the recently established Coral Sea Marine Park, lies the Queensland Plateau, one of the world’s largest continental margin plateaus at nearly 300,000 square kilometers.
The 1888 Ritter Island (Papua New Guinea) landslide was the largest historical volcanic-island landslide ever recorded and generated a devastating regional tsunami.
Ashmore Reef Marine Park is home to unique coral ecosystems: Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems (MCEs). While the waters of Australia are famous for shallower coral systems such as the Great Barrier Reef, MCEs there (and around the globe) remain largely unknown and undocumented.
Very few deep sea areas both in and outside of Australia have been well-sampled over large spatial and temporal scales, and a large number of species still remain undiscovered and unnamed.
Rising water temperatures and increasing carbon dioxide concentrations remain among the greatest threats to ocean ecosystems globally. This warming trend and associated ocean acidification poses a unique threat to species that use calcium carbonate to build their shells or skeletons, such as corals.