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Learn more about the RESEARCH PROGRAMS...


Undersea Research Areas


From the Gulf of Alaska to Gulf of Maine, NURP scientists are descending in undersea vehicles to study the world's most productive fishing grounds. Through the viewport of a submersible, NURP scientists observe where and how fish live and record more precisely how many fish exist at these depths. While important harvested species are in decline, their recovery may be impeded because their habitats are threatened by human activities as well as other factors. This information is of increasing interest to fisheries managers who consider essential habitat a critical factor in protecting marine resources and as a resource to be managed. Fisheries management and conservation also depends on knowing what naturally regulates the abundance of marine fishes.



Fisherman secure the day's catch

Healthy Oceans

Healthy coastlines that support life and property, tourism and trade depend on the preservation of natural resources and the protection of clean air and water. The Florida Keys serve as an example of a valuable national asset that is under increasing pressure from both man-made and natural threats. Teasing out the natural versus human-caused disturbances so that coral reefs can be managed effectively is gaining momentum in Florida now. Since the ocean comprises 98 percent of the free water of Earth-and healthy coastlines depend on it-determining the many components present in seawater is a key thrust of scientific research sponsored by NURP. The discovery that the deep sea may be as species-rich as a tropical rainforest comes at a time when pressure is mounting to use every available square foot of coastal land for development. As the number of land sites dwindles, the oceans are likely to become more prone to waste management in the future.



Sea sponges like this are dependent on a healthy ecosystem.

Diversity of Life

Once considered a barren desert, the deep sea now reveals its richness. From the hydrothermal vents of the mid-ocean ridges to the cold seeps in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists are discovering unique life. Here, in total darkness fed by chemicals in the vent fluids, are virtually undescribed communities-perhaps the precursors of life on Earth. Called extremophiles for their ability to flourish in the world's most extreme environments, microbes and animals from the deep sea can be tapped for potential commercial and biomedical applications.



Ice worms like this can live in the most extreme environments.

Environmental Change

As the debate intensifies over possible man-made influence on climate, scientists are working to discover and understand links between the atmosphere and the ocean, and natural climate variability across the globe. Global climate change is a recurring theme throughout Earth's history. The presence of continental ice sheets and concurrent drops in sea level have left spectacular evidence of past climate cycling. Follow NURP researchers on a journey to lost continents beneath the ocean to learn about how past climate history holds clues about potential climate change in our future. An important part of our atmosphere, carbon dioxide, contributes significantly as a greenhouse gas that can effect global climate change. To narrow the uncertainties about the global effects of carbon dioxide, and to improve our understanding of the trends and forcing of greenhouse gases, NURP researchers have focused on the ocean's exchange of carbon dioxide with the atmosphere, and the ocean's vast reservoir of carbon. Until it is fully understood how carbon is regulated by biological, chemical, and physical processes in the ocean, the many roles of atmospheric carbon dioxide cannot be accurately understood.



Carbon dioxide and gases from large factories may contribute to global warming.

Marine Education

While the primary mission of NURP is scientific research, a small portion of the program is aimed at sharing the results of this research through partnerships with education and outreach programs. NURP programs involve hundreds of scientists each year throughout the world studying exciting new frontiers. We are uniquely positioned to meet the challenge of using this excitement to capture public attention and educate our future leaders. Through the Internet, the scope of potential involvement and access to information is expanded to a global scale. Interactive technologies allow students and teachers to experience and study the oceans without leaving their schools. A Long-term Ecosystem Observatory (LEO-15) at a 15 m depth in the Atlantic Ocean gives hundreds of K-12 teachers and their classrooms access to real-time scientific data from the seafloor observatory. Beginning in 1998, NURP also began funding for the JASON Project. After discovering the wreck of the RMS Titanic, world-famous explorer Dr. Robert Ballard received thousands of letters from students around the world wanting to go with him on his next expedition. In order to bring the thrill of discovery to millions of students worldwide, Dr. Ballard founded the JASON Project, a year-round scientific expedition designed to excite and engage students in science and technology and to motivate and provide professional development for teachers.

More -- Providing Access to Advanced Technologies



Students examine a specimen during outreach activities.