Before we lose sight of shore, we wanted to share what our science team will be focusing on this year during our dives to the Titanic wreck site.
We are grateful to the OceanGate Foundation for supporting the Titanic Expedition science and research team for the third year. Chief Scientist Dr. Steve W. Ross is again leading a team of renowned researchers from around the world.
The science team will focus on the following expedition objectives:
“We know shipwrecks impact the ocean’s floor for decades or even centuries. The Titanic provides a unique deep-sea case study of how artificial structures are impacted by natural elements and inhabitants, in addition to how these structures support or influence marine ecosystems,” said Dr. Steve W. Ross, OceanGate Expeditions Chief Scientist.
“The Titanic has created an island of biodiversity in an area that is otherwise a muddy abyssal plain. The melding of these diverse areas of study that our scientific team brings to the Titanic Expedition will help us contribute to the study of our deep oceans as we share these data with the broader scientific and education communities,” he explained.
We are excited to have Beverly McClenaghan, lead ecologist at the Centre for Environmental Genomics Applications and eDNAtec, join our expedition again this year. She will be leading the collection of environmental DNA, or eDNA, throughout the water column near the Titanic wreck site.
Collection and analysis of eDNA is a powerful tool that offers stunning insight into the biodiversity of a site. By taking a small water sample from a site, scientists can collect the DNA left behind by organisms to identify animals and other life forms in the area and characterize the ecosystem.
eDNA technology can be used to detect all types and sizes of organisms from microbes to mammals – and can provide unprecedented insights into the ecosystem at the RMS Titanic wreck site, from the bacteria associated with the characteristic “rusticles” on the wreck to the animals living on the wreck and in the surrounding sediment.
“We do often find DNA sequences that we can’t identify. We do have a reference database that we use to identify the unknown sequence, but sometimes not all species are in that database, or some species haven’t been described before,” according to Beverly McClenaghan.
Scientists are still analyzing last year’s water samples, but preliminary results already show rich biodiversity at the Titanic wreck site.
The science and research team includes: