As you dive deeper into the ocean, less and less sunlight shines through, and about 200 meters beneath the surface, you reach an area called the “twilight zone.”
The live conversation will feature insights into pushing the boundaries of discovery and seeking solutions to Earth’s most pressing problems, deep in the ocean’s twilight zone.
″ Illuminating the Abyss ” will take place on Tuesday, September 21, at 7:30 PM ET. The event will be hosted by renowned ocean research organization Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and moderated by climate reporter and author Tatiana Schlossberg.
Special equipment is required to visit these extreme depths, which is why less than 5% of this area has been explored and charted.
Enter Mesobot, a state-of-the-art aquatic explorer designed to help unravel some of those unknowns, and improve our existing knowledge.
Much of the shark focus around the Cape is on great whites roaming close to the shoreline as they prowl for seals, but researchers are finding out that several sharks are actually diving deep into the twilight zone out in the middle of the ocean. Scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod are researching the sharks’ deep diving behavior and how sharks’ bodies have evolved to handle these deeper conditions. They’re learning that deep diving is far more frequent and extensive across species than previously thought, said Simon Thorrold, a senior scientist in the biology department at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
A difficult area to study and often overlooked by science, new technology is aiding its exploration, forcing researchers to re-evaluate just how much life is down there. Researchers now believe there is 10 times, maybe 100 times the biomass previously thought, says Heidi Sosik, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).
Mesobot looks like a giant yellow-and-black AirPods case, only it’s rather more waterproof and weighs 550 pounds. It can operate with a fiber-optic tether attached to a research vessel at the surface, or it can swim around freely.
Much of the science focuses on the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle. Through chemical and biological processes, the ocean removes as much carbon from the atmosphere as all plant life on land.
“It’s been called the greatest migration on Earth,” says Annette Govindarajan, a WHOI oceanographer who also does twilight zone research.
Traditional methods, which include trawling and baited cameras, can only offer snapshots of the complex deep-ocean world, says Elizabeth Allan, a postdoctoral investigator at WHOI who works on the Institute’s ocean twilight zone project.
“All the vehicles on the road in the United States produce around 1.5 PgC per year,” says Kevin Archibald, a biological oceanographer at WHOI and lead author of that study. DVM could be understood as offsetting about two-thirds of all U.S. automobile emissions.
Associate Scientist Joel Llopiz describes the vast, virtually unexplored ecosystem lurking beneath the surface of the ocean known as the twilight zone. It is deep enough that it hasn’t really been affected by humans yet. But commercial fishing companies are eyeing it now, so scientists who study the Twilight Zone are urging the UN to establish some rules for it soon. (segment begins at 23:08)
“The most striking thing is just how far down it is and how the light dissolves away,” says Joel Llopiz, a biologist with Woods Hole Oceanographic.
When asked what remains mysterious about them, Simon Thorrold, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution laughs, explaining: “It will be way quicker to go over what we do know. And that is almost nothing.”
The twilight zone can be found 200 to 1,000 meters (about 650 to 3,300 feet) below the ocean surface, at the point where the sun’s rays can no longer reach, according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) in Massachusetts. Because it’s so deep and there’s no sunlight, it’s cold and dark.
Op-ed piece written by Mark Abbott, president and director of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Chris Scholin, president and chief executive officer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
As ocean acidification and climate change become the new reality, scientists wonder what will happen to the distribution and well-being of plants and animals. “Monitoring communities and ecosystems is going to be much easier done by DNA methods,” says Elizabeth Andruszkiewicz Allan, an environmental engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic. “You take one water sample and look for everything from microbes to whales.”
Today, the U.S. is a powerhouse of ocean science research and marine engineering, led by organizations such as Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, among others. These are the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Ames Research Center, and Goddard Space Flight Center of ocean exploration.
Quotes Mark Abbott