Ocean Life


Whale populations in New York Harbor are booming—here’s why

National Geographic

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the New York Aquarium teamed up to deploy a high-tech acoustic buoy named Melville, 22 miles south of Fire Island. Whales communicate mostly via sound, and each species has distinct calls (and even dialects).

Researchers are exploring the SS Portland shipwreck. Here’s how to watch

Portland Press Herald

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is working with NOAA’s Office of Marine Sanctuaries and Marine Imaging Technologies to explore the wreck of the SS Portland as part of a three-year project that will also include explorations of other nearby shipwrecks.

Exploring the wreck of the steamship Portland, ‘the Titanic of New England’

Boston Globe

By visiting the final resting place of the Portland, researchers will document changes that have occurred at the site of the wreck and gain more insight into the fate of the doomed steamer.The expedition is being led by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Marine Imaging Technologies.

Climate change doesn’t only mean rising oceans — your health is at risk, too

The Sacramento Bee

According to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution website, diarrhetic shellfish poisoning produces gastrointestinal symptoms, usually beginning within 30 minutes to a few hours after consumption of toxic shellfish. Although not fatal, the illness is characterized by incapacitating diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

How a Volcanic Eruption Set Off a Phytoplankton Bloom

The New York Times

Lava-driven nutrient fountains “could be a pretty important driver of phytoplankton ecology in the broader ocean,” said Harriet Alexander, a biological oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who was not involved in the latest study.

Underwater cameras tackle tough questions for fishery

grey seal in gillnet

Scientists, in collaboration with commercial fishermen, are using underwater video cameras to document the behavior of seals and other animals in and around fishing nets just east of Cape Cod—an area that has seen steady growth in gray seal populations over the past few years. 

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Why we must protect the ocean’s ‘twilight zone’

Mother Nature Network

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.

Minion robots in the Ocean Twilight Zone

Phytoplankton use sunlight and carbon dioxide to grow, forming the base of the ocean food web. Phytoplankton are eaten by zooplankton, which are eaten by other animals. Dead zooplankton and other particles become marine snow drifting in the ocean, but how much marine snow sinks below the sun-lit ocean surface? Scientists are developing a new device
that will follow marine snow into the ocean’s twilight zone.

The MINION is a small (2 Liters) inexpensive instrument. It is equipped with… cameras, seawater sensors, acoustic recorder, ballast weight. Once deployed, MINION will sink to the twilight zone and drift with currents.

Cameras on the side record the rate and quantity of particles falling through the ocean. Falling particles also accumulate on a clear glass panel. A camera on top will record the particle type and accumulation rate.

Similar images have revealed the twilight zone is a perpetual snowstorm, of organic debris. Particles such as this fecal pellet from a jellyfish-like salp are extremely carbon-rich. Pellets like this will sink quickly to deeper waters, or even become buried in the seafloor. Any marine snow that reaches the deep ocean means less carbon in the atmosphere.

The MINION is designed to listen for underwater sound sources. This will determine their location as they drift.

After a MINION has finished its mission, it will release weight and float to the surface. At the surface, it sends a homing signal so it can be recovered. The next generation of MINION will send compressed data-sets via satellite. Allowing them to be deployed by the dozens. Data from MINIONS will help scientists learn more about the ocean’s role in Earth’s climate system.

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Creatures of the Ocean Twilight Zone

The ocean twilight zone is home to innumerable mysterious creatures. Most of them are very small. Some glow in the dark. Others are just plain bizarre. They all play an important role in maintaining the health of this complex ecosystem. An ecosystem we are only beginning to understand.

This was part of a mission in spring of 2019 where several members of the OTZ Project team conducted an expedition aboard OceanX’s research vessel, the M/V Alucia, out of the Bahamas. The main goal of the expedition was to examine how the OTZ project site off the coast of New England differs from this distant –yet connected– region of the twilight zone. The team worked closely with OceanX to share their journey through video diaries and photographs of the extraordinary creatures brought on board throughout the cruise. The Ocean Twilight Zone is supported by the Audacious Project, a collaborative endeavor, housed at TED, to surface and fund ideas with the potential to create change at thrilling scale.

Video by Erik Olsen

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Local fishermen assist leatherback research

Wicked Local

After several years, Kara Dodge began to do other work with turtles, in particular a “TurtleCam” project with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution engineer Amy Kukulya. The project involved tagging and tailing turtles with autonomous underwater vehicles to study diving behavior, eating habits, and assess ways to reduce entanglements.

What’s it like in a submersible?

It is hard to describe what it’s like to physically travel down to the twilight zone. Both Heidi Sosik, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Ocean Twilight Zone (OTZ) project lead and Joel Llopiz, Associate Scientist, and OTZ lead of the life histories and behavior theme went down in a submersible for the first time to experience the twilight zone. They were able to able to observe beautiful jellies and small fishes like bristlemouths, hatchetfish, and lanternfish, all in their natural habitat.

This was part of a mission in spring of 2019 where several members of the OTZ Project team conducted an expedition aboard OceanX’s research vessel, the M/V Alucia, out of the Bahamas. The main goal of the expedition was to examine how the OTZ project site off the coast of New England differs from this distant –yet connected– region of the twilight zone. The team worked closely with OceanX to share their journey through video diaries and photographs of the extraordinary creatures brought on board throughout the cruise. The Ocean Twilight Zone is supported the Audacious Project, a collaborative endeavor, housed at TED, to surface and fund ideas with the potential to create change at thrilling scale.

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What is the story behind Mesobot?

Mesobot is designed to let scientists observe the twilight zone by autonomously tracking individual animals for hours or even days without disturbing the environment or disrupting their behavior, making it possible to follow individual animals as they take part in the great migration from the twilight zone to the surface and back each day. Mesobot is also equipped with samplers that will allow it to capture traces of environmental DNA (eDNA) from seawater while on a dive. The engineering team held their first successful at-sea test in June of 2019.

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Discovering the Ocean Twilight Zone with Joel Llopiz

Most life forms in the twilight zone are tiny—a few inches or less—but even the smallest twilight zone inhabitants are powerful through sheer number. Joel Llopiz, Associate Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, is part of the Ocean Twilight Zone (OTZ) project. The project is embarking on a bold new journey to explore one of our planet’s hidden frontiers—the ocean twilight zone, a vast, globe-spanning, and dimly lit region between about 200 and 1,000 meters beneath the ocean’s surface. Understanding of the twilight zone is currently limited by its enormous size and lack of easy access.

Several members of the OTZ project team conducted an expedition aboard OceanX’s research vessel, the M/V Alucia, out of the Bahamas in spring of 2019. The main goal of the expedition was to examine how the OTZ project site off the coast of New England differs from this distant –yet connected– region of the twilight zone. Going to different areas is critical to help us understand how abundance and types of organisms change geographically. Even from onboard observations, it was clear that this area has far fewer organisms than off the more nutrient-rich waters of New England. The team worked closely with OceanX to share their journey through video diaries and photographs of the extraordinary creatures brought on board throughout the cruise.

The Ocean Twilight Zone is supported the Audacious Project, a collaborative endeavor, housed at TED, to surface and fund ideas with the potential to create change at thrilling scale.

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Entering the Ocean Twilight Zone with Heidi Sosik

It is hard to describe what it’s like to physically travel down to the twilight zone. In addition to extraordinary bioluminescence, Heidi Sosik, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Ocean Twilight Zone (OTZ) project lead, was able to observe beautiful jellies and small fishes like bristlemouths, hatchet fish, and lanternfish, all in their natural habitat.

Several members of the OTZ Project team conducted an expedition aboard OceanX’s research vessel, the M/V Alucia, out of the Bahamas in spring of 2019. The main goal of the expedition was to examine how the OTZ project site off the coast of New England differs from this distant –yet connected– region of the twilight zone. Scientists conducted net tows to collect animals at specific depths within the twilight zone and went down in a manned submersible to observe life there. They also collected water samples for environmental DNA analysis, a kind of forensic tool that allows scientists to sleuth out organisms the scientists weren’t able to physically catch. The team worked closely with OceanX to share their journey through video diaries and photographs of the extraordinary creatures brought on board throughout the cruise.

The Ocean Twilight Zone is supported the Audacious Project, a collaborative endeavor, housed at TED, to surface and fund ideas with the potential to create change at thrilling scale.

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Meet an Ocean Twilight Zone photographer

Fish ecologist, Paul Caiger explains how he brings together his passion for the Ocean Twilight Zone and photography to shed light on one of the least known regions on the planet. This was part of a mission in spring of 2019 where several members of the OTZ Project team conducted an expedition aboard OceanX’s research vessel, the M/V Alucia, out of the Bahamas. The main goal of the expedition was to examine how the OTZ project site off the coast of New England differs from this distant –yet connected– region of the twilight zone. The team worked closely with OceanX to share their journey through video diaries and photographs of the extraordinary creatures brought on board throughout the cruise. The Ocean Twilight Zone is supported by the Audacious Project, a collaborative endeavor, housed at TED, to surface and fund ideas with the potential to create change at thrilling scale.

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