The deepest, darkest, most inhospitable place on Earth is the focus of a new £2 million research project funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The ECOMAR project will explore the Mid-Atlantic Ridge located deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean. The researchers will be aided in their quest by the use of advanced technology and equipment, including remote sensing from satellites, unmanned robotic vehicles and precise acoustic techniques. The research will be mainly concentrated around the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone, a giant canyon hundreds of miles long and about 20 miles wide that cuts through the mountain range and connects the two halves of the ocean.
Led by Professor Monty Priede, Director of Oceanlab at the University of Aberdeen, the consortium of researchers aims to determine the local, regional and global ecological impact of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge as a physical structure. It will provide a comprehensive overview of how all forms of life interact and function in this environment. The researchers’ findings will feed into a global Census of Marine Life project.