Category Archives: Research

Research is science with a specific goal or a well-defined hypothesis to test. It’s the counterpart to Exploration, which has no specific goal in advance.

Sea Star of the Show

Scientists on the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer were thrilled to see a species of sea star alive for the first time in history. The six-rayed sea star,  Rhipidaster (confirmed over phone by Chris Mah from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History), was found at Supply Reef,  an active submarine volcano within the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.  The sea star was last catalogued by scientists over 150 years ago in 1860, when a dead specimen was found. Now, not one, but three of these remarkable sea stars were seen during a June 23, 2016, ROV dive, implying that the species has been living all this time. The fact that this species was seen in an unexpectedly biodiverse region speaks volumes of what else may be awaiting discovery beneath our oceans’ depths. The ship’s mission is far from over.  Participating scientists are excited to see what other unexpected discoveries remain to be revealed!

Okeanos Explorer cruise summary – Exploring the Marianas

The EX1605L1 leg of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer‘s trip to the Marianas was captivating, to say the least! From new species of jellyfish, to hydrothermal vent chimneys, this exploration leg was jam-packed with discoveries.

Okeanos started this cruise leg near Guam, then moved towards the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (MTMNM) and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The Marianas Trench is known as the deepest part of the ocean, at almost 11,000 meters deep! The intention behind this cruise leg was to gather baseline knowledge of the biodiversity and geology of the area. The NOAA team onboard used their remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer, “D2” to explore the area.

As always, the Inner Space Center at URI published those streams in real-time to YouTube and scientists worldwide. Some dives attracted as many as 2,500 simultaneous viewers.

The biology encountered in the Marianas was phenomenal! The cruise leg started off with a six-gill shark sighting at Santa Rosa Reef.

We discovered a wide variety of creatures inhabiting the area:

One of the most enthralling discoveries was a new species of jellyfish! This hydromedusa was found at Enigma Seamount at roughly 3,700 meters:

The Okeanos Explorer also made some great geological discoveries. They explored a newly-discovered hydrothermal vent site boasting one of the highest temperatures recorded in the Marianas region: 339 degrees Celsius. (Most of the deep sea is a chilly 2 degrees Celsius.) The 30-meter chimney base was releasing black “smoke” made up of iron and anhydrite precipitate.

Actively venting hydrothermal vent chimney shrouded in black smoke, and covered with vent animals, including shrimp, crabs, snails, and scaleworms. Image courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas.

There were also young lava flows that had created glassy pillow mounds. The area was so new that no animals had yet colonized the area.

That’s a wrap for Leg 1! Come back for more deepwater exploration on June 17th!

For more details about individual dives visit the NOAA Okeanos Explorer website.

Videos and images courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas.

Inner Space Center helps locate black box from El Faro shipwreck

The Inner Space Center (ISC) has been working in conjunction with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate the sinking of the El Faro cargo ship. The 790-foot cargo ship sank off the Bahamas  during Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015. Continue reading Inner Space Center helps locate black box from El Faro shipwreck

Rhode Island Shipwrecks Recap

From September 2nd, to September 6th, several members of our URI GSO Inner Space Center team sailed aboard the R/V Endeavor. We were joined by scientists (from the URI Graduate School of Oceanography), high school teachers, and members of the United States Coast Guard Academy. Everyone onboard came out to sea for our Rhode Island Shipwrecks project. Continue reading Rhode Island Shipwrecks Recap

Investigating an Underwater Volcano

Recently, I joined up with local up-and-coming researcher, Brennan Phillips, on an expedition to the remote waters of the Solomon Islands. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find great article on the work. A huge thank you goes to local legend Todd McLeish for writing the piece.

All images in this article are © Alex DeCiccio. Continue reading Investigating an Underwater Volcano

The Final Piece – Looking Forward to the Future

Before the TREET project brought the Inner Space Center and its telepresence enabled scientific research to new highs and lows, before better practices brought new evaluated methodology, before the culture of at-sea science began to craft a new image for itself, Chris German, PhD, and his team were already getting after it. What’s “it?” Read on. Continue reading The Final Piece – Looking Forward to the Future

Another Side of Science

So far in this organically growing series of exposés on the TREET project, I have covered two different perspectives, the early career scientist and the undergraduate researcher in training. I have now convinced two more invested souls to sit down with me and discuss their most fascinating theories and ideas. An expert scientist and an expert observer, who is also a scientist of the social kind. This piece is an observation on the observer. Continue reading Another Side of Science