Research Projects

More info coming soon.





"To the Deep- Undersea Boyage in Bering Sea Canyons" by Doug Bertran Productions:

"Into the Abyss" - Submarine Exploration of the World's Largest Undersea Canyon
Evening at Egan University of Alaska Lecture by Michelle Ridgway, Marine Ecologist




23 January 2010
Under Alaskan Seas Expedition Prepares for Launch

Beginning in 2010, Under Alaskan Seas Expeditions will launch three years of intensive research and deep ocean exploration from the Arctic’s Barrow Canyon to the deepest chasm in Alaska, the Aleutian Trench, using submarines and unmanned robotic technology to explore, document, and collect new scientific data in Alaska’s vast undersea universe. And some lucky Alaskan students will join in on this research venture!

To pursue this ambitious initiative, the Alaska Deep Ocean Science Institute, Alaska SeaLife Center and Alaska’s Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) have partnered with State and Federal agencies and an international array of scientists and educators. The project is fashioned after NOAA and National Geographic’s “Sustainable Seas Expeditions” led by Dr. Sylvia Earle in the 1990s, where submersibles were used to profile life in National Marine Sanctuaries. However, Earle’s research was not extended to Alaska, because no National Marine Sanctuaries exist in Alaska.

Michelle Ridgway

The core science mission driving this three-year endeavor addresses ocean chemistry, zooplankton ecology, biodiversity and marine geology. In order to learn from historic trends in ocean climate and how ocean life responded to glacier melting following the last ice age, ancient lifeforms in Alaskan seabeds will be analyzed for clues to the paleoclimate regime. Researchers will use new technologies like manned and unmanned submersibles to address perplexing questions about marine foodweb carbon sources, effects of acidification on invertebrate health and other facets of deep ecosystems at the very fine scale that only these tools allow. “As the 2010 Alaska Marine Symposium demonstrated this week, we know very little about what lies under the surface of Alaska’s oceans – we know more about the surface of the moon than the seafloor of Alaska’s seas,” said Dr. Ian Dutton, President and CEO of the Alaska SeaLife Center.

In addition to focus at the core science research sites offshore, the Under Alaskan Seas Expeditions will engage students in surveying species and mapping habitats in Alaska State marine parks, the over 650,000 acres of Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge marine waters and other specially designated ocean sites. Unexplored habits such as rockfish reefs, coral beds and lush kelp forests lie within waters in these areas already designated as “special places”.


“This partnership will bring together cutting-edge under sea exploration with ongoing studies of marine birds, marine mammals, and marine fish, and oceanography. The payoff is to better understand marine ecosystems and thereby improve the likelihood that the biological integrity will be maintained of these areas that are so important to local people, commercial fisheries, and that support world-class concentrations of marine wildlife" said Alaska Maritime Refuge Biologist Vernon Byrd.

From a Bering Sea perspective, “New ocean management strategies must be built on cultural and scientific knowledge by current and future generations. Engaging Alaska’s Native communities and youth in this program is what makes the Under Alaskan Seas Expeditions so important" said Pribilof Island Tribal Leader, Chris Merculief.

So that the scientists don’t have all of the fun, Alaskan students from kindergarten through college level will be invited to participate in expedition planning and work at sea either directly or through virtual fieldtrips. “While students will not dive with us in submarines, they will be trained in piloting undersea robots called Remotely Operated Vehicles, or ROVs and other traditional science equipment”, said Expedition Chief, Michelle Ridgway. Student opportunities for research involvement will include connecting through “virtual fieldtrip” portals, ship community port visits, overnight local expeditions, and some students will be invited to join in the core science voyages.

Deep Rover

“This is ‘hands-on’ science at its best, with students directly engaged. Under Alaskan Seas Expeditions will heighten ocean literacy and help students gain an understanding about why it’s important to take care of these important submarine areas” in the view of COSEE Marine Education Specialist, Marilyn Sigman. Sigman is the organizer of SEANET, an Alaskan network of marine educators and scientists, which will enable students throughout coastal and interior Alaska to learn about opportunities like Under Alaskan Seas, and participate either directly or virtually.

The unprecedented Alaskan collaborative team involved in Under Alaskan Seas Expeditions is seeking $3.3 million to support field research, student involvement and public outreach over the next three years. “Some contributions of logistical and other support have already been offered for this mission. Meanwhile, eager young ocean scientists of the future have already begun formulating their deep sea research questions for consideration in this mission plan” said marine ecologist and expedition chief, Michelle Ridgway of Alaska Deep Ocean Science Institute.