Sponsored by: Schmidt Ocean Institute
It is estimated that up to a million species remain undescribed in the deep pelagic zone, owing largely to a lack of sampling effort and limited tools available for the direct collection of holotype specimens. A significant amount of pelagic deep-sea species remain undescribed/poorly understood simply because they cannot be captured and returned to the surface in good enough condition for taxonomic inspection. To address this shortcoming, this project involved the development and deployment of a novel robotic encapsulation device outfitted with a tissue sampling system with in situ preservation capabilities, a plenoptic light-field imaging system, and a laser-sheet PIV imaging system to enable the rapid characterization of deep-sea specimens. The physical tissue samples that were collected and preserved in situ allow for full-genome sequencing including gene expression, which is something that has only been achievable in a handful of previous efforts. Advances in the tools available for deep-sea midwater science will create new windows into pelagic ecology. We anticipate the results of our proposed work will set a new benchmark for future midwater expeditions, in both imaging and sampling capabilities.
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