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Scuba Science 4 - Out of the Blue

Laurence P. Madin Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution bio Nearly 40 years ago, open-ocean scuba diving for plankton research got its start with Bill Hamner and a group of students working in the Gulf of California and the Bahamas. The idea was simple -- organisms are best understood by observing them directly in their habitat, but for decades zooplankton were thought to be too small to study in this way. Our first blue-water dives revealed that there are many large and important zooplankters, particularly gelatinous forms, which had been largely missed by conventional plankton sampling, yet made up significant parts of the biomass, biodiversity and trophic structure of the upper water column. Since then blue-water scuba has become an accepted and productive method for plankton research, both from shore sites and ships at sea. In this talk I highlight some of the major insights gained into feeding and locomotory behavior, reproduction and energetics, symbiotic associations, microstructure of the pelagial, and patterns of phylogeny, distribution and abundance. We saw that salps filter food very differently in the ocean than in lab beakers, and that the actual feeding mechanism of pteropods was displayed only by undisturbed animals in the ocean at night. The occurrence of diverse species of hyperiid amphipods finally made sense when we could observe their associations with gelatinous hosts in the field. By collecting intact animals we could conduct a range of shipboard and land-based experiments and measurements to quantify the growth, reproduction and energetic of salps and siphonophores, among others. Even the occurrence of many fragile or rare species has been documented only through direct observation by blue-water divers. This simple method has been productive out of all proportion to its cost and complexity, and illustrates again the value of placing human eyes and minds in direct contact with the ocean world. Recorded on 05/24/10 at 9:41AM ET
Length: 17:27

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