Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Welcome to the ABYSSLINE Project Blog!

“ABYSSLINE” stands for Abyssal Biological Baseline Project, an international research program to study  biodiversity, connectivity and gene flow of deep seafloor communities targeted for nodule mining in the future.  Our study sites lie at ocean depths exceeding 4000 m (2 miles) and are among the most poorly studied ecosystems on the planet.  These habitats are also characterized by a high diversity of seafloor invertebrates. Our benthic biological baseline studies address the following key questions:

1) What are the baseline conditions of community structure and biodiversity for the key benthic abiotic components of this abyssal benthic ecosystem (megafauna, macrofauna, meiofauna and microbes)?

2) How do community structure, sediment community respiration, and biodiversity vary as a function of environmental parameters (especially nodule cover) within and across three study areas (or “strata”) within the UK-1 Claim Area, and between years within one of these study areas?

3) What is the connectivity at species and population levels between strata and across the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (see below) for representative components of the biota?

Map detailing the various claim areas within the CCFZ.
The area we will be sampling is highlighted within the red box on the right.
We are now conducting the second ABYSSLINE Project cruise aboard the research vessel RV Thompson, with an international team of 28 scientists hailing from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the Natural History Museum and National Oceangraphy Centers in the United Kingdom, and research institutions in Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Singapore.  We will be at sea for 42 days, working in a region 1250 miles south of San Diego, far out in the equatorial Pacific.  We left San Diego on Feb 12, and are just now arriving at our first real study site, after 4 days of transit through calm Pacific waters.  We have spent days setting up our equipment, which includes all kinds of state-of-the-art gear and techniques to sample mud and the diversity of seafloor life 4 km below us.   The crew of the RV Thompson have been extraordinary in helping to plan our gear deployments.  Our meals have also been amazing this far, requiring frequent work on the exercise machines aboard the ship to protect our waistlines!

Over the course of the cruise, we will have various members of the scientific team write blogs, describing their research activities and experiences at sea. 

Written by: Craig Smith, (Chief Scientist) University of Hawaii at Manoa


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