Deep-sea exploration helps scientists keep oceans healthy
Posted April 25, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Students at the Nature Research Center in Raleigh are waiting their turn to look inside the Deep Sea Explorer exhibit.
Liz Baird, director of school programs at the museum, can tell them what it's like to be real deep-sea explorer. She was part of a team of scientists that explored underwater canyons off the East Coast last year.
Thousands of years ago, the coastline was about 50 or 60 miles farther east than it is today.
“Those ancient riverbeds carved deep canyons that are now underwater,” Baird said.
Those canyons are teeming with life, and they haven't been carefully studied. Baird leaves Monday to join about 30 other researchers for a three-week exploration of deep waters off the Virginia coast. The expedition is a joint effort between federal agencies, researchers and educators from several universities.
“I love being at sea,” Baird said.
The Nature Research Center has an exhibit that shows what life is like in the shallow waters off the North Carolina coast. But Baird says it’s a different world in those ocean canyons.
“The most striking difference is that it's completely dark. There is no sunlight down there,” she said.
As they study what lives on the floor of the ocean, researchers are looking for knowledge that could make the oceans healthier.
“We are looking for new things, new habitats, new places that we should keep safe,” Baird said.
Visit the research team’s blog to read stories about the past trip and see pictures from previous missions.