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Analyses pictures of deep-sea life

Studying animals in their natural environment is difficult enough but when the animal you are interested in lives deep at the bottom of the sea under really high pressure AND with no light, it makes it particularly challenging! 

Nicola King

Student of the month
Nicola Jane King
PhD -student at Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen (second year)

How factors such as water depth and temperature influence where particular species of deep-sea fish live in the North Atlantic ocean, focusing on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

B. Sc. (Hon's.) in Marine Biology/Zoology from the University of Wales, Bangor in 2002. Her undergraduate project was based on the behaviour of mussels from hydrothermal vents on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

RObust BIOdiversity lander (ROBIO): The landers carry the camera (A) as well as other equipment which measure how fast the current is moving, and in which direction, and it also measures how salty the sea is (salinity) (B). The lander also carries a flash (C) and a battery (D) for the camera, and 2 releases which drop the weight when they receive the signal from the ship (E). The bait is under the camera on top of the weight with a ruler (F).

Nicola uses a digital camera that can work down to depths of 6000 m - the length of 50 football pitches!  The camera is baited with mackerel, a particularly smelly fish, and the smell of the bait attracts scavenging fish - fish that will eat anything!  The cameras takes pictures once every minute, and the pictures allow Nicola to get lots of information including which fish come to the bait, how long they stay, how many there are, and their size.

The cameras are mounted onto special metal frames called “landers”.  The landers have floats but are weighted with scrap metal making them sink to the seafloor.  Once the camera has finished taking pictures we send a sound signal from the ship which makes the lander drop the weight.  The lander then floats to the surface where we can get it back onto the ship and downlaod the pictures.
Once Nicola gets back to lab she can go through all the pictures one by one identifying the fish, measuring and counting them.  She can also look at how the different species of fish interact and how they are distributed over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

The deep-sea environment makes up a huge part of our oceans, so it is vital that we understand and protect it.  Taking pictures of deep-sea life all over the world in our seas and oceans helps us to understand the depths of our most valuable living resource, giving us an extremely important portfolio of which animals live where and why.

An example of one of the images captured by the camera on the ROBIO lander, 2355 m, Mid-Atlantic Ridge, North Atlantic ocean.  You can see the measuring cross and bait are in the middle of the image. The black fish are called Blue Hake, and the grey fish are called Armed Grenadiers or “rattails”!


~ read more about Nikki's work

A picture is worth more than thousand words...

Hard working students

Landing on the ridge

Listen to Nikki on Science Snap



Meet the MAR-ECO post-graduate students and their projects in the student profiles:

Dangerously delicious?
Inger Marie Tyssebotn
Bachelor student projects
HiÅ B.Sci. students
Bone Atlas
Amy Heger
MAR-ECO jigsaw
Vanda Carmo
Systematics project
David Rees
What are dolphins doing along the mid-Atlantic ridge?
Lise Doksæter
DNA from shrimp diet
Helene Axelsen
Krill on the MAR
Tom Letessier
Biology and distribution patterns of some deep-sea fishes
Inge Fossen
The distribution of Lophogastrida
Pål Øyvind Aas
Analyses pictures of deep-sea life
Nicola J. King
Food for thought. What do deep-sea fish have for dinner?
Guro Gjelsvik
Jellies - challenging objects to study
Aino Hosia
~ see also students & scholarships
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