Researchers from Dalhousie University and Memorial University – funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada – and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are setting off to explore yet-to-be-discovered parts of our ocean in the northwest Atlantic. Oceana Canada will bring the expedition into people’s homes using high-tech camera equipment and live streaming. Tune in to see through the eyes of an underwater robot as it traverses the sea floor, and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for updates from the ship.
The Gulf of Maine expedition will survey unexplored canyons and the continental slope, collecting information about sea floor habitats to support marine conservation. On board will be scientists, collecting and reviewing data, as well as a team of technicians that will operate an underwater robot or Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV).
This technology will capture images of the sea floor in high-definition video and broadcast it live, making scientific research and ocean exploration accessible and engaging to a wide audience.
The Gulf of Maine is among the most diverse and complex marine ecosystems in the world. It’s powerful tides combine with nutrients from bordering watersheds to create a productive ecosystem, providing critical habitat for thousands of marine species.
The area is also important for migratory marine mammals and seabirds. These species travel great distances just to visit this unique area because it offers the perfect conditions for feeding, nursing young and breeding.
The expedition will explore the sea floor, encountering invertebrates such as deep-water corals, lobsters and crabs as well as fish species like red fish, wolffish and Atlantic cod. Some of the region’s unique habitats have already been explored, but research to understand others and the organisms these habitats support, such as deep-water corals, is just beginning.
Canyons on the continental slope harbour significant populations of deep-water corals. These corals grow very slowly and can reach up to 1,000 years old, providing habitat for many other marine species including fishes, shrimps and crabs.
Each coral is essentially a colony made up of hundreds of polyps, or individual animals. Unlike tropical corals, deep-water corals rely on filter feeding to capture food. Each polyp has tentacles that catch food, such as plankton, that drift by in the ocean currents.