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Secret Life Found in Ancient Coral!

Originally aired on August 16, 2023

In this episode of Wondros, hosts Jesse and Priscilla interview National Geographic Explorer and marine biologist, Luiz Rocha, who explores the deep sea reefs. Luis discusses his experiences diving to depths of 400-500 feet and discovering new species of fish and coral. He explains the excitement of discovering something new and the importance of protecting reefs for their ecological significance and beauty. The conversation also covers topics such as the process of diving at these depths, the impact of human activities on reefs, and the challenges of conservation efforts. Overall, the episode sheds light on the wonders and challenges of exploring and safeguarding the hidden secrets of the deep sea.

The thrill of discovery in deep sea diving

  • The biologist is always surprised and excited to find new species during dives.
  • Fish, coral, crustaceans, and nudibranchs are just a few examples of the diverse species they discover.
  • The beauty and uniqueness of each new species make the experience of exploring deep sea reefs captivating.

The significance of deep sea reefs and the need for conservation

  • Over a billion people depend on reefs for food, tourism, and coastal protection.
  • Reefs also play a vital role in the production of bio compounds used in medicine.
  • The biologist personally values reefs for their breathtaking beauty and believes they should be preserved.

The challenges of diving at extreme depths

  • Technical diving at depths of 400-500 feet requires specialized training and equipment, including a rebreather for breathing helium.
  • The gear is heavy, and swimming can be strenuous, which is why divers use scooters to navigate underwater.
  • The process of decompression after a deep dive can take several hours, but the biologist and his team find ways to stay productive during this time.

The discovery of new species and their naming

  • The biologist often encounters new species of fish during his dives, easily recognizable by their unique colors and attributes.
  • When a new species is found, the team photographs and documents it, sometimes collecting samples for further study.
  • The naming of new species has moved away from using Latin and Greek names and now prioritizes using local names, allowing communities to connect with the newly discovered species.

Conserving deep sea reefs in the face of human impacts

  • Even in remote places, signs of human impact such as fishing lines, nets, and litter can be found on the deep sea reefs.
  • Proper conservation requires finding a balance between protecting reefs and sustainable fishing practices.
  • The biologist emphasizes the need for targeted conservation efforts, focusing on areas most vulnerable to destruction rather than meeting arbitrary targets.

The future of deep sea exploration and conservation

  • The biologist believes there is still much to discover in the depths of the ocean and appreciates the opportunity to contribute to scientific knowledge.
  • Collaboration with local scientists and building partnerships is essential for successful conservation efforts.
  • Deep sea mining, though not widely observed at the depths explored, poses a potential threat that must be monitored and addressed to protect these delicate ecosystems.