Talk: The Deep Sea

Talk with Carl O Wirsen, WHOI.

The Deep Sea is the largest biosphere on Earth covering more than 70% of the habitable space, yet is relatively unexplored and until recently, inaccessible. Only 3 people, for a total of less than 3 hours, have ever visited the deepest parts of the Ocean yet 12 people have spent over 300 hours on the surface of the moon. Life in the deep sea is relatively sparse and must withstand total darkness, extreme cold, and great pressure. For food they must depend on what arrives as a result from photosynthesis at the surface. WHOI's long time participation using ALVIN, has helped us understand that biological activity is extremely slow in this environment and is not a site we should consider for waste deposition. On the flip side when deep sea hydrothermal vents were discovered some 40 years ago WHOI's research branched into studying these rich oases of life. Vent sites are home to many previously unknown microbes and animals that rely on energy of the inner earth to supply the chemicals for growth rather than photosynthetically supplied food that sparsely rains down. Seawater exits these vents at temperatures from ~50°F to ~ 800°F. Over 500 new species of animals and bacteria have been described thus far from these sites. The highest temperature at which life has been found to occur on this planet (250°F) has been described for microbes that exist in vent structures.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019 at 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Vineyard Haven Public Library
200 Main Street, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568

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