In order to view what is happening below the ocean surface, oceanographic researchers use a variety of still-image and video cameras. Lowered into the depths, some cameras hang suspended in the water column, observing pelagic life, while others are placed on the seafloor, to catalog the diversity and activity of organisms living at the seafloor. These cameras are generally combined with other instruments that record the physical properties of the surrounding waters, such as temperature, salinity, and available light and nutrients.
One of the latest pieces of technology used by Census researchers is the "bathysnap," a camera that can take multiple images over a preset period of time (called time-lapse photography). This camera sits on a large tripod on the sea floor to collect images, over time, of the benthic habitat. The camera uses powerful flash bulbs to light up a photographed area of approximately 2m2, acting like a photographic quadrat sample, but over time instead of location. Combined with instruments that record current speed and direction as well as the temperature of the water, the Time-Lapse Camera Tripod provides scientists with data on the movement and basic behavior of deep-sea organisms in the context of the physical conditions they experience. This technology is a great research tool for viewing the ocean floor and its inhabitants.
A time-lapse camera set-up in the process of being launched over the side of a research vessel. (Census of the Diversity of Abyssal Marine Life - CeDAMar)