Earth’s oceans cover an estimated 70 percent of the planet, but their depths remain more foreign to us than the surface of the Moon. This expansive and mysterious ecosystem contains more than 97 percent of the planet’s water and sustains more than 80 percent of the plant and animal species diversity on Earth. But beyond our oceans’ massive capacity to harbor and sustain life, they also serve as the critical engine of the planet’s cooling system. The ocean’s high heat capacity and large-scale thermohaline circulation patterns play a major role in cooling the Earth by modulating and redistributing global temperatures.
Our goals are to gain a better understanding of the deep ocean environment through monitoring and examining human-caused threats to these waters, including shifts to deep ocean circulation patterns, exploitative deep-sea fisheries, and extractive deep-sea mining; all of which are serious and increasing threats to this fragile ecosystem and the planet.
The depths of Earth’s oceans are unlike any other place on the planet: a pitch black environment that if lit up would illuminate a desert-like landscape, a place seemingly averse to life with its extreme pressure, hydrothermal vents and cold seeps, and yet, life persists. This vast, rich environment, teeming with life, has long captivated our imaginations and sense of adventure, and yet more than 80 percent of the deep ocean remains poorly mapped, unobserved, unexplored and alien. By bringing together scientists across multiple disciplines with some of the world’s leading divers/marine biologists, the Life at the Extremes: Oceans program will contribute to groundbreaking research to better understand the glaciers, species, weather systems, and more that impact communities around the world.