Just Science #2: Science and Industry Collaboration in Deep-Sea Research

Just Science Entry #2

[For the second day of Just Science, I asked Henry Ruhl, fellow MBARI’ian and deep-sea ecologist to discuss a new project he is involved with]

Much of what we know about temporal variability in deep-sea ecology comes from only a few locations and most timeseries studies extend back less than two decades. Comprehensive understanding of both natural variability and anthropogenic impacts will require longer datasets. Providing some certainty about the spatial extent of any observed trends will require the inclusion of currently under-sampled locations such as the southern Atlantic. Collaborations between those conducting industrial activities and research in deep-water have great potential to help collect these much needed data and expand scientific understanding and public education of marine science.

The DELOS program (Deep-ocean Environmental Long-term Observatory System) is one such collaboration between the University of Aberdeen Oceanlab, the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK, University of Glasgow, Texas A&M, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and BP. During the initial phase of DELOS a pair of deep-sea observatories will be deployed at a BP deep-water facility location off the coast of Angola. One observatory will be placed within an operating facility field and one will be positioned afar for comparison with background conditions. Assembly of observatory components is underway and deployment of the first system is expected later this year. The program aims to provide insights into on-site industry impacts and provide additional understanding of how climatic processes can link to life in the deep sea. Future DELOS activities aim to synergize the technological advancements of both science and industry by including real-time data acquisition and the possibility of experiment manipulation.

The SERPENT project (Scientific and Environmental ROV Partnership using Existing iNdustrial Technology) is another fruitful collaboration between marine researchers and the oil and gas industry. It provides scientific researchers access to industrial data and ROV resources at many locations. Both DELOS and SERPENT are resulting in advancements that would not otherwise be possible. With this new access to resources, deep-sea researchers and industry now have an extraordinary opportunity to lead the way towards the informed use of deep-ocean resources.


Dr. M (1720 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.