Mapping the ocean’s depths

I am a post-doctoral researcher at the National Oceanography Centre and I did my PhD at the University of Southampton where I studied seafloor and habitat mapping.  I probably chose this field as the ocean for me represents an incredibly large area for which we know too little.  We either have a broad view of the processes occurring at the global scale or a very detailed understanding of a few specific habitats.  However for the most part, we still do not know what things (e.g. animals, habitat, resources) are where.

That is why I got interesting in mapping the ocean; I was curious to discover what the seafloor looked like in areas for which we only have sparse data.  As part of my research at the National Oceanography Centre, I have had the opportunity to go out on research cruises which explored the seabed using a range of tools, from images which give us a very detailed view, to acoustic mapping techniques which allow us to cover large areas.  During these expeditions, we collected data using state-of-the-art technologies such as Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) which provide data in real-time and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) which go on data gathering missions while to ship is busy doing other scientific activities.

The maps obtained give us an idea of the “landscape” of the seabed, just like on land there are canyons, hills, plains as well as many more small and big features.  The images, once I have identified and counted all the organisms present, are used determine which animals inhabits which environment and how widely distributed they might be.  By better understanding the relationships between the location of particular species and the environmental conditions they prefer, my research can be used to provide additional information for making spatial planning decisions so that we may sustainably manage our marine resources.

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