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Scientists to study biodiversity and pharmaceutical potential on seafloor off California

SAN DIEGO—Three scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego will lead a cruise off Southern California beginning Oct. 27 to explore the biodiversity of deep sea habitats. Their goal is to document the life forms inhabiting these environments and assess their potential to yield chemical substances with pharmaceutical potential.

“Surprisingly, there are still areas off Southern California where marine life remains unexplored,” said lead scientist and Scripps biological oceanographer Lisa Levin in a released statement. “We think it is important to understand the biodiversity of seafloor life associated with these different minerals that are increasingly targeted for mining by society, prior to decisions about exploitation.”

Levin, marine biologists Paul Jensen and Greg Rouse, and U.S. Geological Survey colleague Kira Mizell will lead the cruise aboard the Ocean Exploration Trust’s Exploration Vessel Nautilus. They hope to survey and sample at nine locations on the continental slope. The researchers hope to identify biological resources that have potential societal benefit, information they hope will inform future decisions about seabed mineral extraction throughout the world.

To explore the area, known as the Borderlands, the researchers will employ the remotely operated vehicle Hercules, sending it on dives to depths between 1,300 and 6,500 feet. The public will be able to watch these explorations through the Ocean Exploration Trust’s 24/7 live-streaming Nautilus Live website, NautilusLive.org, with most ROV dives conducted during daytime hours generally beginning at 8 a.m. PT.

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