University of Maine marine scientist Rhian Waller shares experiences and photographs from her recent deep-sea coral expedition in Chile in her blogs on the National Geographic website.
In September, Waller traveled to Huinay Scientific Field Station near the northern Patagonian fjords to collect final samples from a yearlong deep-sea coral monitoring program studying how climate change, salmon farms, fishing and oil exploration affect deep-sea coral reproduction, and what effect any altered life cycle could have on the marine ecosystem.
In her Oct. 11 blog, Waller wrote, “Corals are not just beautiful to look at … they’re also extremely important to the health of our oceans, and ultimately the health of the planet. Coral ecosystems have been called the ‘rainforests’ of the ocean and, while this is true, they’re actually so much more.” In addition to providing habitat for many other species of marine life, Waller says corals remove carbon dioxide from the ocean and are used in the development of pharmaceutical drugs to combat cancer.
Waller and Laura Grange from the University of Southampton in England dove to retrieve data loggers placed a year ago to record temperature, salinity and light. Waller, who was heralded as a risk taker in “New Age of Exploration” in the March 2013 edition of National Geographic Magazine, received grants from the National Science Foundation and National Geographic Society to conduct the research.