Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell recognized the Oregon Institute for Marine Biology (OIMB), a research institute under the auspices of Research, Innovation and Graduate Education at the University of Oregon, for its contributions to research and conservation efforts with the Department of Interior’s Partners in Conservation Award. The award recognizes innovative conservation projects that involve collaboration between federal agencies, public research universities, and private research institutions to protect and preserve natural resources.
The OIMB was part of a consortium of 17 institutions—including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and 11 other research universities from both sides of the Atlantic—that collaborated to survey and explore the diverse biological communities located in the deep-water canyons of the Atlantic Ocean.
Several University of Oregon faculty members, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers were involved in the project, including Craig Young, director of the OIMB; Maya Watts, a postdoctoral researcher at OIMB who coordinated the project for the UO; and Sandra Brooke, a former postdoctoral researcher and guest faculty member at the UO who is now an associate research faculty member at Florida State University. Dr. Brooke represented the UO at the ceremony is Washington, D.C.
The deep-water canyons team used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) known as JASON to explore the abundant coral habitats in the canyons located off the mid-Atlantic outer continental shelf, including one formation surrounding what may be the largest methane gas seep yet discovered. Cold-water methane seeps occur over fissures caused by tectonic activity along the sea floor and provide nourishment and habitat for large communities of deep-sea mussels and coral. In addition to the biological and oceanographic discoveries, the team also conducted important research into historic shipwrecks and the biological communities they support.
OIMB provided the principal support for identifying animals during the research expedition and will continue to support samples of deep-water mussels and coral in their labs here in Oregon.
To learn more about the OIMB and the Deepwater Canyons team, you can visit the NOAA “Deepwater Canyons: Pathways to the Abyss” website which supports mission logs, photos, and educational resources related to the research expedition.