Before HMS Challenger: from earlier expeditions to lobbying for the deep
Dr Jon Copley, University of Southampton, UK
The voyage of HMS Challenger from 1872 to 1876 is often credited with laying the foundations of modern oceanography, as a consequence of its global scope and multidisciplinary approach, which opened up the "sealed interior" of the oceans described by Matthew Fontaine Maury two decades earlier. But the Challenger expedition did not spring fully formed into existence; it built on knowledge and experience obtained by earlier expeditions, such as the Royal Society's charters of HMS Lightning in 1867 and HMS Porcupine in 1868 and 1869 for scientific investigations in the northeast Atlantic. Obtaining government backing for a global voyage of exploration also involved considerable lobbying by William Carpenter, through public talks and mobilising the support of notable 19th century scientists including Charles Lyell, Thomas Huxley, John Tyndall, and William Herschel. The eventual award of £200,000 for the Challenger expedition, equivalent to around £29.5 million today, was driven by promised vistas of scientific discovery and the importance of understanding more about the ocean floor for laying submarine telegraph cables. In this talk Dr Copley will outline the circumstances that gave rise to the Challenger expedition, and how it secured a lasting legacy among other voyages of ocean exploration during the same period.
What lives in the deep-sea? A not-so-ancient answer to an ancient question
Dr Adrian Glover, Natural History Museum, UK
In the early days of deep-sea exploration, it was quite acceptable in the scientific community to wonder if any animals at all can live in the deep sea, and if they were there, what on earth they might look like. Ancient lineages of life that have long since gone extinct in our shallow seas? Giant monsters with peculiar adaptations to the cold and dark? Today these old-fashioned questions would probably not pass through a grant-awarding committee. Simply knowing what is there is not enough. Science demands numbers, functions, genomes, applications. But the simple truth is that every deep-sea biologist, waiting on the back deck of a ship for their samples to come up, or watching the screen of an ROV, still ponders these questions - with a remarkably open-mind as to what on earth they might find. It is a common refrain to hear that ‘most of the deep-sea is unexplored’. However, this is not entirely true. We do actually have rather a lot of samples and knowledge of the deep sea. The main issue is that those samples, and the treasures they hold, are not being described, archived and communicated in the comprehensive manner that so defined the Challenger expedition. In my talk, I will propose a 21st century approach to an old problem - what lives in the deep sea?
End-to-end understanding of energy flow at hydrothermal vents
Dr William Reid, Newcastle University, UK
Hydrothermal vents form ephemeral deep-sea habitats that occur along seafloor spreading centres and subduction zones as well as in association with volcanic seamounts. Diverse chemotrophic microbial communities form the base of the food web. These bacteria take advantage of redox disequilibria and a variety of carbon sources to gain “energy” for growth and cell maintenance. Ultimately, this chemosynthetic primary production supports localised, high metazoan biomass in relation to the surrounding deep-sea. Stable isotopes are often used by geochemists, microbiologists and ecologists to understand geochemical processes and “energy” flow through biological systems. Ecologists require an understanding of the basal and primary producer stable isotope dynamics in order to place in context the stable isotope values of metazoan consumers. However, there are often spatial and temporal mismatches in sample collection within many hydrothermal vent fields which hinder our understanding of trophic interactions and “energy” flow from the mantle to the consumer. There is currently a requirement for synthesis within the stable isotope literature that will identify key data gaps, which may bridge disciplines, to be filled. This will allow the development of multi-level isotopic landscapes or “isoscapes” over hydrothermal vent fields which will provide better understanding of the primary production utilised by consumers. Moving forward, these “isoscapes” need to work in parallel with the development of processed based models that will allow analysis and prediction of key biochemical processes that shape the “energy” landscape within hydrothermal vents.
Into the great wide open: plumbing ocean depths in the 21st century
Dr Paul Snelgrove, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
Expanding global interest in the extraction of living and non-living resources from Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction creates both opportunity and challenge. Opportunity for economic benefits from the deep sea juxtaposes challenges in sustainable use of the Earth’s largest, most pristine, and least known habitats. The deep ocean faces stressors from distant sources as climate change warms, acidifies and de-oxygenates deep waters in which microplastics and other human waste are now nearly ubiquitous. Fortunately, new technologies paired with developments in marine conservation and area-based management tools, such as marine protected areas (MPA), offer potential pathways to effective strategies for sustaining deep-sea ecosystems. Rapidly emerging technologies (genetics, imaging, sensors and observation platforms, data and modelling) can inform effective MPA design and management in deep-sea environments, drawing on new approaches to map habitats, evaluate their spatial extent and connectivity, and informing size and spacing elements. Collectively, these tools can help address the unique conservation issues for deep-sea biota (sparse data, low population size, many rare species, examples of late reproducers with limited fecundity) and ecosystems (lack of habitat maps, expansive habitat types interspersed with discrete and sometimes rare and specialized habitats) that require considerations beyond those that drive MPA design in terrestrial and coastal habitats. This discussion will draw from MPA examples in which we consider the need to include a 3D dimension in “protection” when addressing deep-sea ecosystems.