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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Exploring the Deep Ocean - Dormant

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The big science question: The deep ocean is our planet's largest biome, and is under increasing pressure from human activities such as resource exploitation. However, outside the scientific community, awareness of the deep ocean and its ecology is poor, limiting the ability of people to make informed choices where their behaviour as consumers or constituents may have an impact on it. In its 2007 report on "Investigating our Oceans", the Parliamentary Select Committee on Science and Technology also noted that, "people could be drawn into many topics to increase interest in science, such as biodiversity in the deep ocean", and suggested that "a focus on extreme environments (space and oceans) could entice young people into science".

Research details

Our research programme has achieved several scientific 'firsts' since January 2008, which have underpinned our public engagement work:

  • discovery of high-temperature hydrothermal vents in the Southern Ocean, revealing a new province of vent biogeography
  • discovery of hydrothermal vents on the isolated and ultraslow-spreading Mid-Cayman Spreading Centre in the Caribbean, including the world's deepest known vent field
  • discovery of the first known deep-sea vents north of the Azores on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge
  • discovery of at least 30 new animal species, resolving phylogenetic and biogeographic relationships of chemosynthetic fauna worldwide.
'Ivory Towers': Image of a set of black smokers on the ocean floor
Ivory Towers

Key facts

We delivered a programme of public engagement with the following objectives:

  • to raise awareness of ongoing deep-sea discovery, by engaging as wide an audience as possible with our research process and results
  • to inspire and inform specific communities of interest and place about our research (retirees / "lifelong learners"; users of the marine environment; school pupils and teachers; local communities in southern England)
Black smokers
Black smokers

Web links

Explore the deep: inspiring and informing people through public engagement in deep-ocean research

Related research groups

Marine Biology and Ecology
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