Content Essays and NOAA Websites Related to Cold Seeps
Background essays are written by explorers involved in a specific expedition in order to provide further background on specific topic areas associated with the expedition. Mission logs are written by scientists and technicians during an expedition to share ocean exploration discoveries as they are happening. Below are selected essays and mission logs focused on cold seeps.
Exploration of Cold Seeps on the North Atlantic Continental Margin
The continental shelf and slope off the northeastern U.S., the underwater edge of the continent that borders the Atlantic Ocean basin, hosts an incredible diversity of habitats including approximately 70 submarine canyons. These canyons remain little explored but the topography, currents, and sedimentation in and around these submarine canyons support complex systems including chemosynthetic ecosystems in the form of cold seeps.
Communities and Gas Hydrates at Cold Seeps South of Nantucket
On July 11 and July 12, 2013, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and the Deep Discoverer (D2) remotely operated vehicle (ROV) targeted seafloor sites located about 165 kilometers south of the island of Nantucket. These dives were the first scientific explorations of newly discovered seeps.
Discovery of a New Deep Chemosynthetic Community
Explorers found at patch of live mussels, confirming the suspicions of the scientists on the Okeanos Explorer the previous year and found a brand new seep site, one of the very few known off the U.S. Atlantic coast at the time.
Baltimore cold seeps re-discovered!!
The Baltimore Canyon seep site covers a considerable area, and at 400-430 m it is also very shallow compared to the Blake Ridge (2000-3000 m depth) seep site. Unlike other methane seeps the Baltimore seep seems to have only mussels inhabiting the area.
Biodiversity of the Deep, Reducing and Chile Margins
At the Concepcion methane seep area, off Chile, the diverse habitats provided by the methane seep has resulted in incredibly high diversity, in part because it attracts animals from surrounding habitats. Early exploration of recently discovered seeps off Chile suggests the Chile margin represents an entirely novel biogeographic province — an area with almost all species new to science.
Methane in the Ocean
Methane is produced in two primary ways in the ocean, thermogenically and biogenically. Thermogenic methane is produced deep within the seafloor when organic material is degraded by the earth’s heat. Biogenic methane is produced as a waste product when microorganisms called methanogenic archaea eat organic material.
Windows to the Deep Expedition 2003: Cruise Summary
The overarching goal of the 2003 Windows to the Deep expedition was exploration of the Blake Ridge and Carolina Rise for new methane seeps and cold seep communities using an integrated biological, chemical, and geophysical approach.
Gas Hydrates Offshore Southeastern United States
This essay explains how gas hydrates form and discusses hydrates found at Blake Ridge and Carolina Rise off of South Carolina in 2003.
Chemosynthetic Communities in the Gulf of Mexico
Scientists find thriving chemosynthetic communities of tubeworms in the vicinity of cold hydrocarbon seeps in the Gulf of Mexico.
Cold-seep tubeworms are big worms (sometimes as big as 10 feet long) that are found only in places in the deep sea of the Gulf of Mexico called cold seeps. These worms are closely related to other giant tubeworms found around deep-sea hydrothermal vents.
Lessons for Educators Related to Cold Seeps
This section provides direct access to selected lessons about cold seeps developed by scientists and educators during Ocean Explorer field seasons. These lessons are geared toward students in Grades 5-12. Presented here as Web-based education materials, each lesson corresponds with a specific ocean exploration and can be supplemented with daily logs prepared by scientists and educators during each mission at sea. Additional lessons on cold seeps can be found using the Lesson Plan search feature.
Watching in 3-D
Students will explain how multibeam sonar uses the properties of sound waves in water for scientific research about topography of the ocean floor. Students will analyze and interpret multibeam sonar data to identify patterns in the distribution of seafloor features that contribute to scientific research about large scale interactions in Earth’s systems. Students explore a seamount using free Fledermaus mapping software.
Digital Atlas and Cold Seeps
To supplement the Watching in 3-D lesson, the following activities describe how geographical and mapping data marry with expedition website data and selected interactive Fledermaus scene files from key discoveries. The Digital Atlas can be used to obtain information about past NOAA Ocean Explorer expeditions, education resources associated with the expeditions, ship tracks, bathymetric maps, dive tracks, and more.
How to Use the Ocean Explorer Digital Atlas
Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition 2013: Cold Seeps
Animals of the Fire Ice
Methane hydrate ice worms and hydrate shrimp
Students will define and describe methane hydrate ice worms and hydrate shrimp; infer how methane hydrate ice worms and hydrate shrimp obtain their food; and infer how methane hydrate ice worms and hydrate shrimp may interact with other species in the biological communities of which they are part. Activity includes building a methane hydrate model.
Let's Make a Tubeworm
Unique species with a symbiotic relationship in cold-seep communities
Students will describe the process of chemosynthesis in general terms and describe the major features of cold seep communities; define mutualistic symbiosis and give two examples of symbiosis in cold seep communities; and be able to describe the anatomy of vestimentiferans and explain how these organisms obtain their food.
From the Learning Ocean Science through Ocean Exploration curriculum, Lesson 18, Pg 141.
Biological organisms in cold seep communities
Students will obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about flows and cycles of energy in cold-seep ecosystems; develop a model that describes some of the interdependent relationships in cold-seep ecosystems; and develop and use a model to explain states and changes between states of methane hydrates.
What’s the Big Deal?
Significance of methane hydrates
Students will define methane hydrates, describe where these substances are typically found, and explain how they are believed to be formed. Students will describe at least three ways in which methane hydrates could have a direct impact on their own lives and describe how additional knowledge of methane hydrates expected to be found during Ocean Exploration and Research expeditions could provide human benefits.
This Old Tubeworm
Growth rate and age of species in cold-seep communities
Students will be able to explain the process of chemosynthesis and explain the relevance of chemosynthesis to biological communities in the vicinity of cold seeps.
Students will be able to construct a graphic interpretation of age-specific growth, given data on incremental growth rates of different-sized individuals of the same species and be able to estimate the age of an individual of a specific size .
Videos, Images, and Multimedia
Multimedia Discovery Missions (MDM) are interactive multimedia presentations and learning activities that address topics ranging from Chemosynthesis and Hydrothermal Vent Life and Deep-sea Benthos to Food, Water and Medicine from the Sea. Each MDM includes a 7-9 minute animated Lesson, a 4-5 minute animation on Global Impacts, and three interactive activities.
Below are links to a few selected videos and images of cold-seeps and their associated habitats from previous Ocean Explorer expeditions.
This expedition highlight video discusses indicators of chemical seepage and shows images of bacterial mats, shrimp, crabs, fishes and the discovery of methane hydrate and mussel beds.
This video highlights exciting discoveries of a July 12, 2013 ROV dive on the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer showing a large patch of mussels, bacterial mats, bubbles, hydrates, hydrate forming in the water column, and a number of different organisms.
The July 21, Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition 2013 ROV dive was conducted at “New England Seep 1,” further investigating gas seep areas previously detected in sonar data. This video shows a map of seepage, an eel eating a shrimp, several octocoral colonies, a large mussel bed system and methane bubbles in sediment.
Chemosynthetic mussels discovered by the ROV Deep Discoverer in areas of active hydrocarbon seepage in 2013.
Methane bubbles flow in small streams out of the sediment on an area of seafloor offshore Virginia north of Washington Canyon. Quill worms, anemones, and patches of microbial mat can be seen in and along the periphery of the seepage area.
Close-up of methane hydrate observed at a depth of 1,055 meters, near where bubble plumes were detected in previous sonar data. Methane hydrates, a hydrate patch and chemosynthetic communities were seen during this dive, but no active seepage was observed.
Image of gaseous seeps created from water column acoustic reflectivity observations. Also shown is associated bathymetry and seafloor backscatter.
A small bush of tubeworms. When tubeworm bushes are young, only endemic species of animals can colonize them. The presence of the mussels (Bathymodiolis childressi) in the center of the bush means that methane is seeping just below.
OceanAGE Careers Connections
The Ocean Careers to Inspire Another Generation of Explorers, or OceanAGE Careers webpage, invites students to learn about the talented people who explore our ocean planet. From underwater pilots to research scientists, these marine explorers provide students with first-hand knowledge of exciting careers through videotaped interviews and written profiles. Here is one explorer who studies cold seeps.
Dr. Tim Shank
Meet NOAA's newest ocean explorers, who have trained on the Okeanos Explorer.
The above items are only a selection of cold seeps content on our website.