Being in the limelight can be so stressful, it can lead people to give up royalty.
Text and photos: Arunima Sen, Nord University @BentohosEcology
Imagine living quietly in the darkness of the ocean depths, till one day, a big, noisy robot comes and rudely starts flashing lights and scrutinizing your entire deep-sea neighborhood. Despite this Invasion of privacy, imaging the seafloor is one of the most unobtrusive and non-destructive techniques a marine biologist can use to study animals. It is totally hands-off; we don’t touch or disturb the animals we are photographing in any way. Social distancing at its finest. And the coverage you get is quite comprehensive; hundreds of square meters can be mapped through video and image transects in a matter of a few hours, as opposed to the nuggets of information you get by taking many discrete samples. In fact, imaging is one of the quickest ways to get a good overview of remote parts of the seabed that have never been visited before.
Tabloids and photographers often have a pet celebrity that receives the lion’s share of their attention. I admit that I am just as biased, and my star of choice is a thin, black worm that looks like hair sticking out of the seafloor. I am sure that worms do not conjure up visions of glamour for most people, but these worms really are quite special- they don’t eat, or have a mouth or a digestive system. Instead, they have bacteria growing on the insides that make food for them from chemicals on the seafloor. I could watch them all day every day, but the nice thing about imaging and video surveys is that it is very democratic and equitable. I have to take into account everything that is visible, no matter where my personal prejudices might lie.
Practical, non-destructive, comprehensive, and highly informational: not bad for some pretty pictures. With the established rate of a thousand words each, we have a treasure trove on our hands.