An international team of scientists will mark the 30th anniversary of the landmark discovery of the first volcanic hot vent at a special meeting and public event in the Galpagos Islands, located just south of the discovery site, on June 27-29. Attendees will include many of the original explorers who first discovered these bubbling hot areas surrounded by bizarre animals thriving in total darkness-without energy from the sun-at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean in 1977.
"The discovery of hydrothermal vents-ecosystems driven by chemical energy from the seafloor rather than energy from the sun-led to a fundamental change in our understanding of life on Earth," said Paul Tyler, co-chair of ChEss, the group holding the meeting. ChEss is one of the 14 field programs of the Census of Marine Life, a global collaboration to document the ocean's life by 2010.
The discovery spawned a global quest to further explore one of Earth's most extreme environments in search of answers to questions about crust formation, the origin of life, ocean chemistry and more. "It remains one of the most exciting discoveries in the past century," Tyler said.
The Galpagos Islands provide a fitting venue to hold this celebration, said Maria Baker, ChEss program coordinator. "The islands are very close to the actual discovery site.
We are thrilled with the opportunity to showcase how far the research on these incredible ecosystems has come in this natural treasure of the world where Charles Darwin first formed his theory of evolution," she said.
Roughly 50 scientists will attend the meeting, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which will include discussions about new-and controversial-issues facing vent science such as the onset of deep-sea mining and plans for conservation and management, said Eva Ramirez-Llodra, ChEss's other program coordinator.