The Deep Ocean

What are the physical and biogeochemical characteristics of deep and ultra-deep waters of the eastern South Pacific, and which of those determine the diversity and functional structure of their pelagic communities?

In spite of the inexperience and logistical challenges in deep-sea oceanography, initiating the exploration and studying of the deep and ultra deep waters of the South Pacific proved to be extremely rewarding, and constitute one of the most promising research goals for the next phase. As for Research Theme I, the first period showed us the need to more effectively integrate the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the study of the deep ocean. Theme II will be organized around a single grand question: What are the physical and biogeochemical characteristics of deep and ultra-deep waters of the eastern South Pacific, and which of those determine the diversity and functional structure of their pelagic communities?
To address this question, we will analyze hydrographic data and chemical and biological samples collected during our recent expeditions, as well as those resulting from the new initiatives planned for the second period. In particular, we will work on new and past
hydrographic data (T, S, O2, nutrients), as well as on new data on carbonate chemistry, inorganic radiocarbon (Δ14C), and the stable isotopic composition (δ13C, δ15N) of particulate water-column matter. Moreover, we will continue investigating the abundance, diversity, and metabolic or trophic potential of their planktonic (microorganisms and zooplankton) communities, combining traditional techniques with modern molecular and genomic approaches. Tackling this main question in depth will require new technologies, for example in situ
pumps or incubation systems that can work at extremely high pressure and are not available in the market, and undersea robotic samplers and vehicles (ROVs and AUVs). For this, we will team local engineers with collaborators from abroad to work on the design and implementation of such new technologies. The investigation of the deep sea is heavily dependent on technology. Chile has previously had little or no expertise in marine technology appropriate for deep-sea exploration, making Chile dependent on foreign expertise. This has recently started to change. Dr. Giancarlo Troni, an Assistant Professor contracted by the PUC School of Engineering in 2016, has accepted our invitation to join the Deep Sea team. Dr. Troni is an expert in marine robotics and underwater vehicle navigation with PhD from Johns Hopkins and postdoctoral experience at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research (MBARI, a world leader in the field). His research will generate “invented in Chile” and “made in Chile” innovations in marine technology generally, specifically essential for making the deep ocean accessible for Chilean scientists.

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