Thursday, February 16, 2012

Costa Rica Seamounts: Expedition Background

The Aquarium is sponsoring an expedition to explore seamounts, or underwater volcanos, in Costa Rica, along with several leading underwater exploration and research groups. Over the next couple weeks, look for pictures and stories about this expedition from Aquarium explorers. Learn about previous expeditions to study seamounts in the Sea of Cortez and Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

Today's post comes from Alan Roy Dynner, New England Aquarium Overseer (and former Chairman of Board of Overseers and Trustee)

This is the third and final expedition to explore and photograph seamounts (underwater volcanos, usually dormant). There are an estimated 100,000 seamounts in the oceans. They attract large congregations of marine life, fed by the nutrient-rich deep water that upwells around the seamounts. Dr. Greg Stone, Senior Vice President for Exploration and Conservation and Overseer (and Senior Vice President, Chief Scientist for Oceans, Conservation International) and Brian Skerry, Overseer and Explorer in Residence (and National Geographic underwater photographer), are preparing an article for National Geographic based upon material gathered from the three expeditions (the first two were in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, and Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia). 

Alan Dynner

The expedition team will use a three-person submarine to explore and photograph the Las Gemelas seamounts off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.  In the words of Brian Skerry, his intention is to provide images of the:

wildlife living around the Las Gemelas seamounts. The story we are producing for National Geographic magazine will show readers the unique ecosystems that seamounts represent in Earth's oceans; that they have tremendous biodiversity and as some of the last remaining "hot spots" in the sea, must be conserved. My plans are to photograph deeper water animals (primarily fish and corals) using the Deep See submersible and the remotely operated vehicle owned by the University of Connecticut. Additionally, I hope to photograph zooplankton in the shallower depths that migrate up from deep water each night in search of food.

Our expedition ship, the MV Argo

The team will also use the ROV to explore the seamounts. Dr. Larry Madin, Aquarium Overseer (and Executive Vice President and Director of Research of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), will lead a team to scuba dive day and night at modest depths in very deep waters, in his words:

to photograph and collect gelatinous zooplankton, organisms such as jellyfish, siphonophores, comb jellies and salps.

These specimens will be preserved for later study and analysis.

This expedition is sponsored by the New England Aquarium, Conservation International, National Geographic, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of Connecticut and the National Science Foundation. The New England Aquarium participants are Dr. Gregory Stone, Brian Skerry, Alan Roy Dynner and Dr. Larry Madin.

For more pictures and stories from this expedition to Costa Rica, follow Greg Stone on Conservation International's blog as he prepares for this expedition.

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