Exploiting and conserving deep-sea genetic resources

Pleased to invite you to a seminar by Prof. Louise Allcock, Professor of Zoology at National University of Ireland Galway. Louise Allcock became interested in the deep sea through work on deep-water octopods, and has applied her knowledge of molecular systematics to the challenge of identifying poorly-known deep-water fauna to facilitate a range of interdisciplinary deep-sea research.

Ireland’s deep-sea territory is very extensive, and encompasses a range of habitats including carbonate mounds, and submarine canyons.  The marine animal forest – the corals and sponges – are highly diverse, and vulnerable particularly to fishing.  Over the last few years we have carried out multiple expeditions in Irish deep-sea waters, collecting video footage and biological samples with an ROV.  As well as contributing to systematics studies on corals (particularly sea pens, bamboo corals and black corals), we have investigated the pharmaceutical potential of a selection of coral and sponge species by screening extracts through a range of bioassays, and we have elucidated a range of bioactive new compounds.   We have attempted to model the likelihood of any given coral species producing a bioactive compound based on prior knowledge of bioactivity in various coral taxa.  We are in the process of combining this with species distribution modelling for multiple coral species to generate maps of potential bioactivity hotspots that we can use to promote conservation of these important genetic resources.

The webinar will take place on Tuesday 28th September at 1300 BST and will not be recorded, so please join us by registering for occasional updates below:


ROVs are unmanned vessels that give scientists the opportunity to study and collect organisms from greater depths than manned submersibles, without the risk to human life, and at less expense and effort. ROVs are becoming the primary tool for studying the biodiversity of the deepest oceanic ecosystems and are a key technology in deep sea research. They are linked to a surface support research vessel that controls their underwater activity and transports them to and from the research site. This BBC report gives a profile of ISIS, UK’s deep diving ROV, which has recently made a discovery of some hot vents.

Cruise aboard RV Thalassa: France – Iceland – Azores

The ICE-CTD research cruise investigated cold water coral reefs and seawater properties around coral and non-coral areas. The objective was to characterise the present and past coral environmental conditions. Coral were sampled for dating, geochemical and genetic studies. The GIS Technician’s job mainly involved using ArcGIS to prepare the ROV dive routes and produce maps. They were also in charge of transferring the real-time data and comparing the real-time routes with the planned dive.

The ship left Brest on the 11th of June and headed straight to the Icelandic waters. It was initially planned to investigate the Logachev mound province but this was cancelled due to bad weather conditions. The ROV was deployed in three locations off southern Iceland and coral reefs were found in each area. Included are pictures from some of the spectacular locations discovered. The ship docked in Reykjavík for one night, allowing everyone to scramble off and explore Iceland’s beautiful scenery (geysers, icesheets, the mid-atlantic ridge, waterfalls!). The ROV team left the ship at Iceland and the rest of the team continued down the middle of the Atlantic to the Azores. CTD measurements were taken along the way and ARGOS floats were deployed, but it was a much quieter cruise on the way back.

Here is the link to the cruise blog:

Image Credits

All the pictures are taken by the GENAVIR ROV team and are credited to the following source: ICE-CTD cruise on N/O Thalassa, conducted by the LSCE and IFREMER under the lead of Dr. Norbert Frank, Laboratory for Climate and Environmental Research LSCE. (links: http://www.lsce.ipsl.fr and http://www.ifremer.fr and contact email Norbert.Frank@lsce.ipsl.fr and Sophie.Arnaud@ifremer.fr) and to Fiona Stapleton, National University of Ireland, Galway.

Footage from Earth’s deepest place

James Cameron Breaks Solo Dive Record – In a state-of-the-art submersible, National Geographic explorer-in-residence and filmmaker James Cameron reached the deepest point of the Mariana Trench, breaking a world record for the deepest solo dive. James Cameron mentions it as more a desert like place with very fine sediments and small, white, alien-like animals.

Footage from Earth’s deepest place is available on this link on the BBC website and also on the post entitled “James Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenge: a scientific milestone or rich guy’s junket?”on Deep Sea News blog which discusses the significance of the dive.