North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Life on the Edge: Exploring Deep Ocean Habitats - NC Museum of Natural Sciences Website
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08/25/03

Tony Ingram, a NCSU student, asked:
Are there any signs that you can see indicating that you are past the shelf, just from looking out on the side of the boat?

We cannot really tell that we are past the shelf just by looking out the side of the ship. We can tell when we get into the edge of the gulf stream however because the water becomes an incredible deep blue. When we sample over the side of the ship we also find that the water is much warmer than it is right along the coast.

Adam, a NCSU student, asked:
How do deep sea marine animals survive without sunlight and warmth of the sun? Also, what do they eat?

The marine animals of the deep sea have many adaptations to living in total darkness. Some animals found along faults survive using chemosynthesis and thriving in the hot water generated by geothermal energy. However most of the animals we find off the NC coast eat the "marine snow" or small dead organisms that sink to the bottom. Some animals also move up and down in the water column depending upon the time of day. Part of our research is looking at energy flow in these deep water habitats.

Nick J., a NCSU Freshman, asked:
What made you become so interested in marine sciences?

Educator Liz Baird responds:
I have always loved being near, in and on the sea. I recently found childhood pictures which show me examining tide pools in Maine and looking at whale vertebrae on the North Carolina coast. I continue to marvel at the mysteries of the ocean and hope that in upcoming years we will gain a better understanding of the food webs in the ocean. I also am excited about observing the behaviors of some of the unique species of the deep. Very little is known about these animals.

James H., a NCSU student, asked:
What is the biggest coral reef that you've encountered while diving?

The Northern and Southern Lophelia Banks are quite large— some appear to be more than 10 feet tall. There are larger coral reefs in other parts of the world.

Nicholas, a NCSU Freshman, asked:
What kind of research is planned for the future and how will it help the coast and the ocean?

Future research will certainly continue to focus on the unique habitats of the deep ocean and how we can protect them. Additional work needs to be done on invasive species, such as the lionfish, and how we can prevent accidental introductions and control the impact that these non-natives have on our environment.

Brandon, a first grader from Wake county, North Carolina, asked:
What kind of technology do you have on the ship, as far as computers, special radars or submarines? Also, have you ever found anything valuable, like artifacts or treasures?

I am assuming that you want to know about the immersion suits which we would wear if there were an emergency on board. There are more than enough immersion suits for every person, plus about twice as many life jackets as people. Additionally we have life rafts to accommodate double the number of people on board.

Stephen, a 5th grader from Wake county, North Carolina, asked:
What kind of starfishes have you caught?

We have found several types of starfishes including a maroon pillow star with very short arms, orange brittle stars with long fragile arms and a speckled starfish with thick arms. Some of these are pictured in the last log on the NOAA Ocean Exploration Website.