Deep ocean trenches are characterized by extreme hydrostatic pressure, low temperature, the absence of sunlight and reduced and altered forms of dissolved and particulate organic carbon. They are also inverted islands of biodiversity. We are evaluating the taxon distributions of autochthonous deep-sea microbial communities and relating this information to the role hydrostatic pressure plays in structuring these phylogenetic and metabolic distributions.
Our study site is the Puerto Rico Trench, the deepest site in the Atlantic Ocean. We have made use of free-fall untethered vehicles (shown left) to collect seawater from the hadal zone. We have been fortunate to join the Bermuda Atlantic Time Series group (BATS) to collect deep seawater for both cultivation-dependent and -independent analyses of the hadal microbial community.