North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Life on the Edge: Exploring Deep Ocean Habitats - NC Museum of Natural Sciences
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Q: While in the sub, did you see a lot of new species that you were not able to catch?

A: The sub is only able to catch twelve samples per trip, and even then we rarely fill all twelve slots. We are much better at "catching" the fish on videotape, and we have used taped images to document species in certain locations. It is very difficult to tell if we have a species that is "new to science," although it has happened on some of our previous expeditions.

Q: We know your sub can go 3,000 ft. How deep have you gone?

A: The dives on this mission have ranged from about 1,500 feet to about 250 feet. The sub gives us a chance to "put the pieces together." We catch things in the net, but it is not until we are underwater that we can see how all of the corals. Invertebrates, and fish fit into the environment. The sub is an amazing tool.

Q: Out of all the species you have found, which one is the most abundant?

A: We have probably seen the most brittle stars. They have come up attached to small pieces of coral and we use tweezers to get them off. When we are in the sub, we have noticed that the brittle stars cover nearly every surface in certain areas. We have seen several large schools of fish such as amber jacks and snappers. At night, we are most likely to see flying fish.

Q: What is it like being in a submersible?

A: The sub is a very small space. In order to document everything, you have to write down observations, make comments into a tape recorder, run the video camera, and talk with the scientists. When you are in the sub, you learn the emergency procedures and it can be overwhelming to try and keep up with everything.

Q: Did you get the chance to control the sub at any point during the dive? If so, how exciting was it?

A: The controls of the sub are managed only by highly skilled and trained sub pilots. It takes years of experience and training to become a sub pilot. It has been equated to learning how to fly the space shuttle. There are two crew members per dive. The sub travels in a high risk environment and we leave its operation to the professionals.

Q: What is the best and worst thing about the ocean?

A: The best thing about the ocean is the exploration of a new world. It is remarkably different under the sea. The worst thing is the evidence of pollution that we have seen nearly everywhere. We have seen soda cans, plastic tubes and containers, and fishing gear on the ocean bottom. We have spotted tennis shoes, bits of balloons, plastic cups, plastic bags, and a huge wooden pallet floating on the surface.

Q: Now that it is getting close to the end of your expedition, are you finding more or fewer fish than when you started?

A: As we have gone from water that is 1,400 feet deep to water that is 250 feet deep, we have seen an increase in both the diversity and numbers of fish. At shallower depths, the sunlight can reach the ocean floor so plants are able to grow. This might increase the amount of food available to the fish.

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