How do scientists reach their study sites?

In order to perform their research, scientists must be able to reach different marine habitats. Unlike studying life on land, researchers can't walk or drive to most ocean habitats. Due to the great depths of the oceans, scientists themselves often cannot go to the places they are interested in studying. In these cases, hi-tech instruments and unmanned vehicles are used to gather data remotely.

How do scientists collect organisms?

When scientists arrive at the marine habitat they wish to study, they face many challenges in collecting the organisms that live there. Yet in order to produce Census data, examples of species must be collected so that they can be officially identified or named (if they are species new to scientists).

How are ocean-dwelling organisms observed and counted?

A goal of the Census of Marine Life is to obtain quantitative estimates of species distribution and density in the areas being studied. This is accomplished by direct sampling, acoustic measurement, aand optical measurement. Due to the vastness of the marine realm, various innovative technologies have been developed.

How are conditions that affect marine life measured?

Knowing the physical conditions of the ocean where an organism lives, such as temperature, salinity, current speed, amount of sunlight, etc, is key to understanding their life cycles and behaviors. Census scientists utilize data provided by a variety of sampling equipment and data loggers to sense conditions both remotely and directly in the environments they are studying.

How are the movements of marine life investigated?

Scientists collect organisms at a given point in time and place. If we want to know more about their behavior, such as whether they migrate or not, or whether they move up and down in the water column, we may locate them with specialized intensive sampling technologies. Innovative technologies also allow scientists to study organisms that travel greater distances across the world's oceans.

How do scientists identify all the different species collected?

Census scientists anticipate the discovery of many thousands of new species during their 10-year effort. The process of accurately identifying so many organisms is a tremendous task. Traditionally, specialized scientists called taxonomists use physical characteristics for classification, but modern techniques allow researchers to use an organism's genetic make-up to identify and classify species. By combining approaches, researchers can more efficiently catalog the marine organisms they discover.