UH professor joins scientific mission exploring one of the deepest ocean trenches

University of Hawaii

University of Hawaii Oceanography Associate Professor Jeffrey Drazen will be joining an international team of researchers to explore life in the depths of the Kermadec Trench.

The 40-day expedition began on April 12, led by deep-sea biologist Tim Shank of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to use the world’s only full-ocean depth, hybrid remotely operated vehicle, Nereus.

The goal of the program, known as Hadal Ecosystem Studies (HADES), is to conduct the first-ever systematic study of life in ocean trenches, comparing it to the neighboring abyssal plain-flat areas of the seafloor usually found at depths between 3,000 and 6,000 meters. It is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Due to the extreme pressures of these deep-sea environments and the technical challenges involved in reaching them, ocean trenches remain among the least explored environments on the planet.

“We know relatively little about life in our ocean trenches-the deepest marine habitat on Earth. We didn’t have the technology to do these kind of detailed studies before,” Shank said. “This will be a first-order look at community structure, adaptation, and evolution-how life exists in the trenches.”

Another goal of this program is to use telepresence technology aboard the R/V Thomas G. Thompson to allow the public to share in the discoveries during several live-streaming web events from the seafloor that will include narration from the science team.

The scientists’ work will also be chronicled in video, still images and regular blog updates on the expedition website.

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