Ken Halanych, professor of biological sciences, has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant along with his collaborator, Craig Smith of the University of Hawaii. The combined $800,576 of funding will begin in September of 2012 and allow Halanych and Smith, along with collaborators from five different countries, to continue their research on the diversity of deep-sea organisms
.“We hope to gain a better understanding of the deep sea environment, the last frontier, and we hope that we can relay some of the gained knowledge and information to the lay public,” Halanych said.
The team will launch landers made of wood, whale bone and rock off the coasts of Washington and Oregon. After a year of submersion, the landers will be pulled up and observed in hopes that their target species, ship worms and bone-eating worms, will have inhabited the structures. The whale bone-eating Osedax, a type of sea worm, is of particular interest due to its recent presence in the news.
The group will run genetic testing on the landers to learn more on the worms. International collaborators, funded from a separate grant, will also launch landers off the coast of Brazil, allowing the groups to pool data together and compare results.“Humans are very dependent on the ocean and this will help us understand some of the most basic biogeographic patterns of animals in the deep sea.”
For Auburn University, Halanych sees multiple benefits to which the University will be privileged. First, he says it gives researchers here a chance to focus on oceanography—a field seldom explored by Auburn scientists. Also, the students will benefit, as graduate students will be trained on the matter in conjunction with the research.
For more information on Halanych and his research, go to the Halanych Lab Website.