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DISCOVRE - Diversity, Systematics and Connectivity of Vulnerable Reef Ecosystems Project:

Microbial Ecology of Deep-Sea Coral Ecosystems

Sediment Microbiology

Much of the deep seafloor consists of soft, featureless sediment. But don't be fooled into thinking there is nothing going on in there! The soft sediments in the valleys of deepwater canyons have their own hidden community of tiny animals such as brittle stars, worms, and crustaceans (meiofauna). Microbes serve as food for some of these animals. One of the goals of the DISCOVRE work in the Mid-Atlantic Canyons is to enhance our understanding of the benthic ecology and food webs in these canyons.

During the 2012 research cruise, sediment samples were collected from multiple sites inside Baltimore Canyon from shallow (less than 200 meters) to deep (over 1000 meters), moving from the head to the mouth of the canyon. Sediments were also collected from corresponding depths along a transect outside the canyon, to examine community differences inside versus outside canyons. Similar samples were collected inside and outside Norfolk Canyon during the 2013 research cruise.

By determining what meio- and micro-fauna are living in these different sediment communities, we hope to uncover new connections and correlations between species that may reveal previously unknown ecological interactions.

Boxcore   Scientists prepare smaller sediment cores from the box core.

Inside the fresh boxcore sample.

Left: A box core is a heavy metal cylinder that is lowered off the ship to collect a sample of the sediment on the bottom. Photo credit: Christina Kellogg/USGS. [larger version]

Top Right: Christina Kellogg and Amanda Demopoulos prepare smaller sediment cores from the box core. These smaller cores will be brought into the lab and sub-sampled for meiofauna and microbes. Photo credit: Eric Hanneman. [larger version]

Bottom Right: A freshly collected box core of sediment is brought onto the ship. Photo credit: Eric Hanneman. [larger version]

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