The Ocean Blog

Uncovering Biodiversity Before It Disappears

Editor's Note: See more information and details about the organisms displayed in the slideshow here . Researchers who come to Curaçao to take part in DROP ( Deep Reef Observation Project ) aren’t running on sleep; they’re running on passion, curiosity and a drive to not waste a moment of opportunity to explore. (And, yes, a fair bit of caffeine.) We are in as much an age of discovery as were Lewis and Clark , Alfred Russel Wallace or Austin Hobart Clark (whose travels on-board the Albatross in 1906 contributed to building NMNH's collections). But our current age of exploration is technology-...Read more

Uncovering Biodiversity… with ARMS and a Submarine Claw

The Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structure was developed to help scientists study coral reef diversity and have now been adopted broadly to study diversity around the world. Credit: Laetitia Plaisance/CReefs, Census of Marine Life If there had been room to stand up, there would have been a standing ovation. As it was, the five of us on the submersible Curasub clapped and cheered when the first three deep-reef ARMS (Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures) were successfully deployed at approximately 396 feet (120 meters). ARMS are like condos for a reef’s “hidden biodiversity” -- the small...Read more

A Voyage of Discovery to Inner Space

Dr. Carole Baldwin , a research zoologist and fish expert with the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, gives viewers an inside-look at the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP). The Mars rover Curiosity is sending images back home : glimpses of another world during a voyage of discovery. While Curiosity is clicking pictures millions of miles away, I am privileged to be taking part in my own voyage of discovery to the inner space of this planet. Without need of a spacesuit, I am clicking pictures off Curaçao, an island in the Dutch Caribbean. A submersible carries researchers to...Read more

Sneak Peek: Future of Coral Reefs in an Acidifying Ocean

Scientists don’t often get the opportunity to travel through time. But nestled among the beautiful coral reefs of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a place that provides a glimpse today of what could be the biggest future threat to coral reef survival: ocean acidification . Ocean acidification is occurring because the ocean has absorbed about a third of the carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels . That carbon is changing the chemistry of the ocean, making seawater more acidic. Reef biologists expect this to be a bigger and bigger problem as more and more...Read more

What We DON'T Know About the Deep Sea

Dive through the zones of the ocean to the deep ocean bottom where many strange species live, and there are many yet to be discovered. Explore them in the Deep Ocean Exploration section. Credit: Karen Carr / Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Sant Ocean Hall Imagine: You’re in a small submersible, and you gently settle on the soft muddy bottom at a depth of 12,000 feet. It’s absolutely dark. What will you see when the exterior lights are turned on? Will you discover underwater volcanoes and hydrothermal vents, as some astonished geologists did back in 1977? Not likely, but you...Read more

Making Science Sing: The Longest Time (Coral Triangle Edition)

Corals, sponges and seaweeds cover most of the surface of many coral reefs . Credit: Wolcott Henry How do you make science sing? Just ask a couple of female scientists to sing about their research interests and their passion is quickly conveyed in a quirky little tune. Informative, inspiring, and a little bit silly are all adjectives that aptly describe this music video performed and produced by a group of female graduate students from UCLA’s Barber Lab . Set to Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time,” this little ditty does a fabulous job of describing biodiversity of the Coral Triangle and these...Read more

Happy 50th Birthday, FLIP – a Mobile Research Island

John Hildebrand discusses his research at the Scripps Whale Acoustic Lab on the FLIP platform. Ships are well-known for their tiny rooms and tight quarters. But have you heard of a sea vessel that has toilets and sinks sticking out of the walls, and staircases and doors on the ceiling? This unique research vessel is real -- and, in June 2012, the Office of Naval Research and Scripps Institution of Oceanography celebrated its 50th birthday. The reason FLIP -- or the FLoating Instrument Platform -- has such bizarre interior design is because all the rooms have to be livable when the vessel is...Read more

A Better Way to Measure Marine Life

The Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structure was developed to help scientists study coral reef diversity and have now been adopted broadly to study diversity around the world. Credit: Laetitia Plaisance/CReefs, Census of Marine Life Collect, sort, identify, photograph, sample, record. Repeat a couple thousand times. This is what the students and researchers have been doing as the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center (IBRC) project has seriously ramped up. The foundation of the IBRC project is a relatively new method of sampling biodiversity , which uses Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (...Read more

Hotspot of Biodiversity

This graph compares the crustacean biodiversity of coral reefs in Bali with two sites on the Great Barrier Reef (Heron and Lizard), Ningaloo Reef (NW Australia), Moorea, French Polynesia, Hawaii and the Line Islands -- both in the central Pacific. Credit: Chris Meyer, Smithsonian Institution We have arrived as the advanced scouting party to the scene of this year's field work location: Pemuteran, a small fishing village in northwest Bali. More importantly, we are sitting squarely at the heart of marine biodiversity at the "Coral Triangle" -- that small part of the globe where, if space aliens...Read more

Patience is a Virtue

Brian Skerry photographing a large tiger shark in the Bahamas. Credit: Copyright © Mark Conlin As an underwater photographer, time in the field is the most valuable thing I can be given. With time, I can usually overcome challenges and the problems that occur . Time also allows me to learn firsthand about the place in which I am working, what happens at different times of day and how animals behave. But oftentimes the best images are made when something unexpected happens. I love the discoveries that come from taking my time in a place and allowing opportunities to present themselves...Read more