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Getting to the bottom of it

Using a robot, scientists and university students gathered samples from the ocean floor on a recent two-week mission.

Using a robot, scientists and university students gathered samples from the ocean floor on a recent two-week mission.

They used ROPOS (Remotely Operated Platform for Ocean Science) to reach depths of more than 1,000 metres to collect samples from the ocean floor off the coasts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

“We’re trying to sample different parts of the sea floor because we think they are critical to ocean health. That includes deep water coral and sediment,” said Paul Snelgrove, a professor at Memorial University and a lead scientist on the research mission.

The crew, which included a student from Dalhousie University, returned to the Bedford Institute of Oceanography yesterday morning.

It will take two years to analyze the data from the two-week mission, but it will provide the Department of Fisheries and Ocean a better map of what areas are most productive.

And there were a few things Snelgrove didn’t expect to see.

“We had a small swordfish, or needlefish, attack and kill a squid, which is something I’ve never seen before,” he said.

“We also saw a whole variety of whales that were hovering around the ship as we were working — sperm, minke, finback, dolphins, and pilot whales.”

Expensive

• ROPOS costs $16,000 a day to operate, and the ship costs up to $25,000 a day.

• The data collected will be fed into the International Census of Marine Life, which will be released later this year.

• Research mission was a part of the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network — a collaboration between the DFO and 15 Canadian universities.

 
 
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