Surprisingly, I’m not breathing compressed air, my feet aren’t wet, and I’m not enclosed in a foot-thick sphere of steel. It feels like I could be on the bottom of the ocean but I’m actually in a comfy armchair, coffee and ginger cookie at my side, aboard a Canadian Coast Guard Vessel. I’m surrounded by a dozen of my peers and the room we’re in would be pitch dark if it wasn’t for the twenty-two huge flat screen monitors displaying, in real-time, the deep seafloor from hundreds to thousands of meters directly below us. It’s misleading to refer to it as the “deep sea”, what I’m looking at could be mistaken for the tropics, some coral reef in Thailand or Bahamas, not the temperate Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nova Scotia. The colours of the rainbow are splashed all over the seafloor: sponges, anemones, hydroids, and corals cover seemingly every inch of rock there is, and schools of fish swarm in huge groups above them.
That should elude to a bit about me but let me formally introduce myself, “Hi , my names Cherisse Du Preez and I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria, British Columbia”. I’m one those lucky people that work their dream job (even Gorge Costanza from Seinfeld wishes he had my job), I’m a marine biologist. I’ve temporally joined the crew of the CCGS Hudson to explore the ocean depths with the remotely operated platform for ocean science, or ROPOS. My part to play in our dives to the seafloor is a story staring deep-sea sponges, corals, and rockfish. Basically the story goes something like this: seafloor structure is to some bottom fish like trees are to birds. I am investigating fishing practices which trawl to catch their target fish and the impact on the preferred structural habitat of sponges and corals. I’ve already done work on this subject on the West coast of Canada and CHONe, with its nationwide scientific initiative, is giving me the opportunity to replicate that work on the East coast of Canada. The video imagery we collect during this cruise will feed directly into my PhD thesis, as well as open up doors for collaborations with other CHONe students and scientists.
Cherisse Du Preez
CHONe Outreach and Student Committee member