Working off the coast of Florida Dr Murray Roberts has made the first deployments of the Suil na Mara microlander to study cold-water coral reefs in the US South Atlantic Bight as part of the ''Life on the Edge 2009' expedition to the deep ocean floor. Suil na Mara (Gaelic for 'Eye of the Ocean') is a newly developed system to record and monitor life in the deep sea. It uses a novel video system illuminated by infra red light that enables animal activity to be recorded without disturbing creatures used to the perpetual darkness of the deep ocean. Alongside the camera a current meter records water speed, direction, temperature and salinity while a separate hydrophone developed by Dr Ben Wilson makes the first ever sound recordings from cold-water coral reefs. Developed in Scotland, Suil na Mara was deployed off Florida using one of the few manned research submersibles available to the research community, the US Johnson-Sea-Link from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution. This work is part of the TRACES project led by Dr Roberts. Over the coming years TRACES will develop more trans-Atlantic scientific exhange leading to the first integrated study of cold-water corals across the Atlantic Ocean.
'Life on the Edge 2009' is a 12 day expedition to explore the biodiversity and habitats of deep reef communities off Cape Canaveral, Florida. You can find out more about the expedition, including daily logs from the researchers here.