AMA: I'm a marine biologist who worked on the BBC's Blue Planet II Watch

This discussion is closed.
Newcastle University Guest Lecturer
  •  Official Rep
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#1
Report Thread starter 3 weeks ago
#1
AMA: The world’s deepest fish: Talk to one of the scientists recording deep-sea life

In 2014, as part of an international team of scientists, a small research group released a free-falling video system into the deepest place on earth, the Mariana Trench – almost 11 km deep (Mount Everest is less than 9 km high). The scene was later recreated for Blue Planet II as it led to the discovery of the Mariana snailfish at more than 8 km depth – currently the deepest fish recorded alive. The little pink fish, delicate and gelatinous, was living at the absolute pressure limit we think fish can tolerate.



I’m Dr Thomas Linley and I am part of that small research group, led by Dr Alan Jamieson (who literally wrote the book on the hadal zone), now based at Newcastle University. I specialise on the fish of the abyssal (3000-6000 m deep) and hadal zones (6000-11,000 m deep) and described the Mariana snailfish – giving it a formal scientific name. I also characterised the fish found in the hadal zone and what makes them distinct from those living on the surrounding abyssal plains.

As part of my role at Newcastle University my colleagues and I are currently part of the science team with The Five Deeps Expedition, where Victor Vescovo hopes to be the first person to take a submersible to the deepest point in all five oceans. I have also just returned from a week with the Natural History Museum in London where I got to examine specimens from as early as the 1800’s, from famous voyages like the Challenger and Terra-nova. This will help us to describe the new snailfish we recently discovered in the Pacific Ocean. We continue to explore the deep-sea hadal trenches of the world and have recorded many animals for the first time.

Name:  Thom.jpg
Views: 61
Size:  42.3 KB
Photo by Anni Glud
Last edited by She-Ra; 3 weeks ago
6
Newcastle University Guest Lecturer
  •  Official Rep
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#2
Report Thread starter 3 weeks ago
#2


It’s a job that I absolutely adore. It is so varied and all of it is rewarding in its own way. I have tales of storms and strange exotic ports like an old sailor, I get the satisfaction of designing, building and coding my own equipment and when I plug in that recovered memory card, I regularly see something that no human has before. It is tough but so rewarding.

I knew I wanted to work with fish for as long as I can remember. I can recall finding out that marine biologist was a job that people could do and that my hobby could be a career. I found out I was dyslexic at the age of 8 which obviously made a difficult career path a little harder. I have some very specific challenges which can be immensely frustrating at times, it isn’t fair that things can be so much harder, but they can be overcome, it just requires the extra work.



I studied Marine and Freshwater Biology at Aberystwyth University and followed that with a Marine Biology masters at Bangor University. I knew that I wanted to get into novel research and do a doctorate some day but at 23 I didn’t feel ready. I still had some growing up to do and I didn’t want to develop in the vacuum of a university. I wanted to use science in the real world and get a wider horizon.



After volunteering in a few places, I found my first real scientific job. I was a field environmental scientist for a large survey company. Before a rig or pipeline was built, I would access the area, look for protected habitats, mitigate disturbance to marine mammals, and get a baseline of the environment to monitor any damage done by the development. I was always a tree hugging hippy at heart, and this felt like fighting the good fight. I could use science in the real world to make a difference. It could be very hard, over 200 days a year at sea, tough conditions and you aren’t always popular with your clients – there are some cables in the North Sea that take a strange path and it’s all my fault.



The job did exactly what I needed it to though. It matured me, toughened me up and let me figure out what I wanted from a career. When I worked with Alan and one of his early baited landers I was fascinated. The vehicle let you see deep-sea fish alive and you could study them without killing them. I returned to academia in order to work with these vehicles and became a research assistant at Oceanlab at the University of Aberdeen, writing a MPhil thesis in my spare time. Eventually doing a PhD and finding myself out in the Pacific Ocean, watching a video of an animal no one had ever seen before.

I'm here to answer any questions you have about what I've shared, my work, my education, my journey to this point and what I've learned along the way

Looking forward to answering your questions.

Thom

Name:  Thom2.jpg
Views: 55
Size:  408.3 KB
Last edited by She-Ra; 3 weeks ago
0
ThatOldGuy
Badges: 19
Rep:
?
#3
Report 3 weeks ago
#3
This is incredibly neat and incredibly interesting. The strange biology of the deep holds a fascination very few things can meet - Angler fish, Vampire squid. The absurd and the creepy.

But... Those things? They look delicious. Not gonna lie. I am super curious about how they taste, now.
0
Guru Jason
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#4
Report 3 weeks ago
#4
At work so can't watch the vids. In idiot terms (so I can understand), how does that fish survive the pressure at such depths?
1
Ciel.
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#5
Report 3 weeks ago
#5
(Original post by Newcastle University Guest Lecturer)
AMA: The world’s deepest fish: Talk to one of the scientists recording deep-sea life

In 2014, as part of an international team of scientists, a small research group released a free-falling video system into the deepest place on earth, the Mariana Trench – almost 11 km deep (Mount Everest is less than 9 km high). The scene was later recreated for Blue Planet II as it led to the discovery of the Mariana snailfish at more than 8 km depth – currently the deepest fish recorded alive. The little pink fish, delicate and gelatinous, was living at the absolute pressure limit we think fish can tolerate.



I’m Dr Thomas Linley and I am part of that small research group, led by Dr Alan Jamieson (who literally wrote the book on the hadal zone), now based at Newcastle University. I specialise on the fish of the abyssal (3000-6000 m deep) and hadal zones (6000-11,000 m deep) and described the Mariana snailfish – giving it a formal scientific name. I also characterised the fish found in the hadal zone and what makes them distinct from those living on the surrounding abyssal plains.

As part of my role at Newcastle University my colleagues and I are currently part of the science team with The Five Deeps Expedition, where Victor Vescovo hopes to be the first person to take a submersible to the deepest point in all five oceans. I have also just returned from a week with the Natural History Museum in London where I got to examine specimens from as early as the 1800’s, from famous voyages like the Challenger and Terra-nova. This will help us to describe the new snailfish we recently discovered in the Pacific Ocean. We continue to explore the deep-sea hadal trenches of the world and have recorded many animals for the first time.

Name:  Thom.jpg
Views: 61
Size:  42.3 KB
Photo by Anni Glud
Oh wow, that's amazing. They are pretty cute, too!
0
Spannerin'moi
Badges: 19
#6
Report 3 weeks ago
#6
:awesome:
I wonder what difficulties need to be dealt while classifying Mariana Trench snail fish as a new species...are there any other closely related species in the locality? :hmmmm:
CoolCavy
  • Community Assistant
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#7
Report 3 weeks ago
#7
Wow this is is so interesting, some thought provoking content on tsr for once. I absolutely love anything like this i have quite an obsession with sharks and find deep stuff like this really interesting cos its a world we really dont know or understand.
My questions are:
-Is the deep sea being as affected by changing global temperatures as the rest of the ocean
-What is your favourite kind of deep sea shark, mine personally is the goblin shark
-Do you ever get scared if you have to go in those submersibles

Thanks for this really amazing thread
5
chairtable
Badges: 7
Rep:
?
#8
Report 3 weeks ago
#8
Really Amazing...love our Blue planet 😍
1
Pandii
Badges: 10
Rep:
?
#9
Report 3 weeks ago
#9
If they are the only fish to live that deep, then what do they eat? Or are there other non-fish organisms that also survive those depths? Are they essentially the top of the food chain?
1
Vinny C
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#10
Report 3 weeks ago
#10
Reminds me of a hagfish... are they related?
Last edited by Vinny C; 3 weeks ago
0
Vinny C
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#11
Report 3 weeks ago
#11
(Original post by CoolCavy)
Wow this is is so interesting, some thought provoking content on tsr for once. I absolutely love anything like this i have quite an obsession with sharks and find deep stuff like this really interesting cos its a world we really dont know or understand.
My questions are:
-Is the deep sea being as affected by changing global temperatures as the rest of the ocean
-What is your favourite kind of deep sea shark, mine personally is the goblin shark
-Do you ever get scared if you have to go in those submersibles

Thanks for this really amazing thread
The six gill... and no, I'm mildly agoraphobic. Being shut it a cupboard for ages holds no fear for me at all, all I feel is boredom.
0
BlueIndigoViolet
Badges: 17
Rep:
?
#12
Report 3 weeks ago
#12
(Original post by CoolCavy)
Wow this is is so interesting, some thought provoking content on tsr for once. I absolutely love anything like this i have quite an obsession with sharks and find deep stuff like this really interesting cos its a world we really dont know or understand.
My questions are:
-Is the deep sea being as affected by changing global temperatures as the rest of the ocean
-What is your favourite kind of deep sea shark, mine personally is the goblin shark
-Do you ever get scared if you have to go in those submersibles

Thanks for this really amazing thread
agree this is so much more interesting that the edgy teen conservatives and communists

could never see myself in any sort of office job, looks a m a z i n g
0
the bear
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#13
Report 3 weeks ago
#13
hagfish are just awful :emo:

0
awkwardshortguy
Badges: 16
Rep:
?
#14
Report 3 weeks ago
#14
I legitimately read this as "I discovered Earth's deepest fetish".
1
She-Ra
  • TSR Community Team
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#15
Report 3 weeks ago
#15
When you're at sea for 200 days a year what does the average day look like? What do you eat? Does it ever feel lonely or does it feel the rest of the crew become your family?
1
Newcastle University Guest Lecturer
  •  Official Rep
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#16
Report Thread starter 3 weeks ago
#16
(Original post by ThatOldGuy)
This is incredibly neat and incredibly interesting. The strange biology of the deep holds a fascination very few things can meet - Angler fish, Vampire squid. The absurd and the creepy.

But... Those things? They look delicious. Not gonna lie. I am super curious about how they taste, now.
Without fail, someone always wants to eat them! They do look a little like a jelly sweet but I wouldn't recommend it.

Most deep-sea animals have really low-density bodies; soft bones and really watery flesh. All fish have a chemical called TMAO that gives them some pressure tolerance. It is also what gives them their fishy smell when it breaks down. Deeper living fish have loads of this.

That's one thing they never tell you... deep sea fish are smelly!
2
Newcastle University Guest Lecturer
  •  Official Rep
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#17
Report Thread starter 3 weeks ago
#17
(Original post by Guru Jason)
At work so can't watch the vids. In idiot terms (so I can understand), how does that fish survive the pressure at such depths?
It's well worth looking at the vids when you get a chance. I must have hundreds of times and they still interest me.

When we send equipment down it usually has air inside it. In this way we have to fight the pressure and need strong metal housings. The fish don't fight the pressure like we do, they have the same pressure inside their bodies.

Most of their pressure adaptations are happening at the molecular level as the pressure really affects how chemical reactions happen. They have lots of high-pressure versions of molecules we have in our bodies. They also change the balance of certain things, like how sensitive their neurons are and the fats that make up the cell membranes. In the fish they also have a chemical in their bodies that stops water being forced into their proteins.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3970477/
1
Newcastle University Guest Lecturer
  •  Official Rep
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#18
Report Thread starter 3 weeks ago
#18
(Original post by Ciel.)
Oh wow, that's amazing. They are pretty cute, too!
I agree! Deep-sea fish have such a stigma but the deepest of them all are kinda cute.
1
Newcastle University Guest Lecturer
  •  Official Rep
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#19
Report Thread starter 3 weeks ago
#19
(Original post by Spannerin'moi)
:awesome:
I wonder what difficulties need to be dealt while classifying Mariana Trench snail fish as a new species...are there any other closely related species in the locality? :hmmmm:
Describing a new species was a real journey. Since it's a part of science that goes back hundreds of years it has a real tradition to it. It feels like very old science.

It feels a bit like submitting a patent for a new invention. You need to describe the new thing in great detail and also look at the other things that are like it and make a case for why yours is different. You also need to be able to submit an example of it. That's where we have a hard time. You need to have a specimen you can put into a natural history museum in order to make a new species. We have loads of video of clearly new things that we aren't able to give scientific names. The ethereal snailfish is an example of this. We gave it a nickname so we can at least talk about it.

There are lots of related species. The snailfishes (family Liparidae) are found from rock-pools at the shore and also the deep ocean trenches. They are a really successful group. When we described the new one we needed to figure out where it fit in the family.
1
Newcastle University Guest Lecturer
  •  Official Rep
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#20
Report Thread starter 3 weeks ago
#20
(Original post by CoolCavy)
Wow this is is so interesting, some thought provoking content on tsr for once. I absolutely love anything like this i have quite an obsession with sharks and find deep stuff like this really interesting cos its a world we really dont know or understand.
My questions are:
-Is the deep sea being as affected by changing global temperatures as the rest of the ocean
-What is your favourite kind of deep sea shark, mine personally is the goblin shark
-Do you ever get scared if you have to go in those submersibles

Thanks for this really amazing thread
Glad you liked the tread. I'll try to check in as often as I can.

- Anything we do globally will also affect the deep sea, it may just take longer. Deep-sea fish have very stable conditions and changes are likely to change their distribution as they try to find the conditions they like.
My biggest worry is changes to currents. Water sinks at the poles and this is what brings new oxygen to the deep sea. There are times in the earth's history (warmer times) where this stopped and the whole deep-sea suffocated.

- The goblin shark is great. I'm sure you have seen that gif going around of it biting. Such a creepy jaw. I have a soft spot for the sixgill sharks as i see a lot of them and they are really large and graceful. I don't think you can see it on the picture but I have one on my tattoo sleeve.

- I work mainly with remove equipment so have not gotten the opportunity to go in a sub yet. I hope I get to some day. I would be scared but I would absolutely do it! It isn't comfy though, hours without a bathroom, the gas mix can give you a headache and when they bob around on the surface a lot of people get very seasick.
... still would though!
1
X
new posts
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

University open days

  • Newcastle University
    Undergraduate Open Day Undergraduate
    Fri, 28 Jun '19
  • Newcastle University
    Undergraduate Open Day Undergraduate
    Sat, 29 Jun '19
  • Newcastle University
    Undergraduate Open Day Undergraduate
    Sat, 14 Sep '19

Where do you need more help?

Which Uni should I go to? (125)
17.78%
How successful will I become if I take my planned subjects? (72)
10.24%
How happy will I be if I take this career? (121)
17.21%
How do I achieve my dream Uni placement? (101)
14.37%
What should I study to achieve my dream career? (70)
9.96%
How can I be the best version of myself? (214)
30.44%

Watched Threads

View All