Deep Sea Ecology and Seafloor Research

With an average depth of over 4000 meters, about 95 percent of the ocean volume is dark, cold and subject to high pressures. These stressors maximize on the seafloor, but surprisingly one of the most productive and unique ecosystems establish on the deep-sea floor, for example along mid-ocean ridges, gas seeps and continental shelf sediments. Here, energy-rich chemical redox gradients form, on which chemosynthetic microbes thrive. In symbiosis with these microbes, various macroinvertebrates have specialized to transform the energy-rich abiotic chemical environment into a biodiversity and evolution hotspot that is currently becoming a real-world model for extraterrestrial life research.  However, the deep-sea is not far from anthropogenic influences. The 21st century has already witnessed the start of natural gas extraction, mining and tapping of the genetic potential in and around deep-sea ecosystems. These developments highlight the emerging importance of deep-seas for a blue economy but also underline the need for integrated studies for sustainable utilization of ocean resources. 

At METU-IMS deep-sea research have been carried out in four interconnected programs:

Deep-Sea Chemosynthetic Ecosystems: The deep-sea is the least explored frontier on the Earth. It hosts unique ecosystems, mostly driven by dark energy such as submarine volcanoes. With a multidisciplinary approach embedded in international programs, we aim to understand deep ecosystems of the Turkish Seas in the context of global change and sustainable use of seafloor resources.

Seafloor Characterization and Habitat Mapping: The seafloor is a heterogeneous but fascinating mosaic of structures and habitats. Using advanced mapping and remote detection tools we build detailed maps and seismic sections of the seafloor of the Turkish continental margins. The products support many ocean applications including earthquake research, biological habitat mapping and future marine spatial planning efforts

Marine Chemical Sensors:Autonomous, robust sensors are needed to overcome the scarcity of observations that limit our understanding of most marine ecosystems. We work on increasing the technological readiness levels of existing prototype sensors as well as developing new methods for in-situ sensing of climate and economic-relevant substrates in the ocean.

Sediment Geochemistry and Geomicrobiology: Strongly coupled to chemical gradients, the soft bottom seafloor is one of the largest microbial habitats in our planet. We aim to understand the processes that drive this coupled system using diverse analytical chemical and geomicrobial approaches. Both fieldwork and modeling are an integral part of this topic.

Contact:

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mustafa Yücel (muyucel@metu.edu.tr)

Assist. Prof. Dr. Devrim Tezcan (devrim@ims.metu.edu.tr)