The system can be triggered to begin recording at programmed intervals to record animals attracted to bait or to an artificial lure designed to mimic the light given off by a common deep-sea jellyfish. (For more information about Eye-in-the-Sea and the jellyfish lure, please see: http://www.hboi.edu/news/press/sept0203.html).
Dr. Tammy Frank, the expedition's other co-leader and head of Harbor Branch's Visual Ecology Department, will use the submersible to deploy light-tight traps of her own design in hopes of bringing animals to the surface without damaging their eyes, as has typically been the case with past research. Eyes adapted to low light in the deep sea can be destroyed even by the relatively dim lights of a ship at night.
The traps are baited then left open on the seafloor. After a period of time, the doors close automatically capturing inside the animals that have come to feed. Traps are then retrieved and unloaded in a darkroom where Dr. Frank and colleagues can study how their visual systems respond to light. The overall goal will be to learn what these animals are able to see under conditions where humans can see absolutely nothing. Answering such questions will not only help the team better understand the importance and functions of the small amounts of light found in the dark world of the deep sea, but may also lead to the discovery of new ways to increase the sensitivity of various man-made detectors.
Dr. Charles Mazel from Physical Sciences, Inc., will be exploring fluorescence given off by deep -sea animals. Fluorescence occurs when an animal or object absorbs light of one color and then reemits light of, or glows, another color. In the ocean, detecting fluorescence can allow scientists to spot animals that would otherwise be too effectively camouflaged to see. Fluorescence is also important becaus
Contact: Mark Schrope
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution