Through a joint effort from Marine Science and Technology Foundation (MSTF), Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI), a long-term observing system was deployed about 550 nautical miles (640 miles) southwest of Bermuda, 5,400 meters down on the ocean floor.
The system, developed by MBARI ecologist Ken Smith and engineer Alana Sherman, consists of a time-lapse camera connected to a string of “sediment traps” (see diagram). The time-lapse camera will snap pictures of a four-by-five-meter patch of ocean floor every hour for up to six months. Smith will retrieve the data from the observatory on a separate cruise scheduled for August.
Previous studies indicate that climate change is affecting sea life at depths previously thought to be insulated from such things. Sediment traps collect debris that rains down from sunlit surface waters and is a primary source of food for deep-sea communities. By measuring how much debris sinks into the traps, researchers can figure out how the food supply for deep-sea animals changes over time.