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Stony Brook Receives Grant To Study Ocean Twilight Zone

NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research via AP
A bioluminescent jellyfish as seen during a deepwater exploration in the Pacific Ocean.

The ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide than it releases back into the atmosphere. Researchers say that will turn the water acidic someday.

The National Science Foundation has awarded Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences more than $400,000 to study that process.

Thousands of feet below the Atlantic Ocean’s surface lies a place of mystery to Gordon Taylor and other marine biologists. Taylor, a professor at Stony Brook University and the recipient of the national grant, says this part of the ocean is known as the Twilight Zone.

Light doesn’t reach that part of the ocean. Marine life is submerged in darkness, lighting their way with their luminescent bodies.

Taylor says microorganisms and animals produce carbon dioxide from their carbon-rich diets, including the waste of other animals near the surface, but “Only a fraction of, a very small fraction of, what’s sinking down through the Twilight Zone makes its way to the sea floor and ends up on the sea bed. So we’re really interested in what happens in that zone, and why doesn’t more material make it to the sea floor to the animals that live down there.”

The three-year study off the coast of Virginia is a joint project between nearby Old Dominion University and Stony Brook University. They expect to start by the fall.

Jill Ryan is a former news assistant at WSHU.