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59. Explorations of Deep Sea Bioluminescence and Coastal Water Flashing Bacteria Indicating Pollution Sources

Dr. Edie Widder of the Ocean Research & Conservation Assoc tells Rob about the importance of emitting light underwater. Cool-light (bioluminescence) is used by marine life much like feathers used by birds, to lure prey, to blend in and to attract mates.  Deep ocean critters are described with lights that respond to changing light in the sky such as when light are dims with a cloud passes across the sun or moon. By mimicking the distress flashes of a deep water jellyfish, a squid completely unknown to science responds.

In Florida’s Indian River Lagoon, Dr. Widder has developed “Kilroy,”an ocean monitoring probe that records light by bacteria in bottom sediments. Like the coal mine canary stopping its singing when the air goes bad, Kilroy records the dimming of bacteria when pollutants are present. Dr Widder finds that nutrients flowing into the lagoon are the No1 problem, followed closely by mercury which is made more destructive to life due a chemical reaction with excess fertilizers.

Dr. “Edie” Widder is a biologist & deep-sea explorer applying her expertise in oceanographic research and technological innovation to reversing the trend of marine ecosystem degradation.  Dr. Widder is certified as a Scientific Research Pilot for Atmospheric Diving Systems, has dived the deep diving suit WASP, the single-person untethered submersibles DEEP ROVER and DEEP WORKER, plus made over 250 dives in the JOHNSON-SEA-LINK submersibles.

In 2005 after 16 yrs Dr. Widder left the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution to co-found the Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA), a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of marine ecosystems and the species they sustain through development of innovative technologies and science-based conservation action. While translating complex scientific issues into technological solutions, Dr. Widder is fostering greater understanding of ocean life as a means to better, more informed stewardship.

Widder angler fish

Anglerfish, a female with lure of bioluminescent bacteria.

Widders biolum jellyfish

Atolla wyvillei, a deep water jelly that Dr Widder modeled her lure with put LED lights to look like this and got remarkable results.

Dr Edie Widder explains why we explore in a video.

See the video of what Edie’s deep ocean lure with lights attracted. A very large squid was caught on film this morning deep in the Gulf of Mexico. A one-of-a-kind technology, called the Eye-in-the-Sea, captured the giant lurking in front of its red light cameras over 1,600 ft below the surface. The event was triggered by a bioluminescence (light) sensor that turned the camera on, capturing a few seconds of the deep-water predator before it swam away. This marks the first time a squid has ever been filmed by this unobtrusive observation tool.

For more information on the angler fish click on The Angler Fish: A Mystery of the Deep by Laurie Wilkins