15th Deep-Sea Biology Symposium by Rich Jones
The Deep-Sea Biology Symposium is an international scientific gathering and I was privileged and honored to have been able to attend the 15th such symposium in Monterey, California, thanks to two travel awards. The first was sponsored by FAU’s Environmental Sciences Program for winning Best Student Poster at the annual retreat in 2018. The second was an award from the DEEPEND Consortium through funds donated to them by Rock the Ocean Foundation for participating in the Tortuga Music Festival’s Conservation Village. Of course, the session topics at this deep-sea conference were utterly fascinating. Even though I have been a graduate student with DEEPEND for three years now it really felt like I was being told about the deep ocean for the first time. It was simply a thrill to spend a week learning about the biology of hydrothermal vents, hadal zone fishes, bioluminescence, cold-water coral reefs, bizarre and intriguing invertebrates like giant larvaceans and tomopterid worms, and that the blackest color black imaginable is on the skin of a fish! Mind blown. But the science and the scientists really impressed me the most. The quality and caliber of science coming from these researchers, who hail from all over the world, is breath-taking. What's more: almost all of these folks knew each other as old friends! A global community of deep-sea researchers, pushing the boundaries of knowledge on what is truly one of the last frontiers of human exploration, are actually all old drinking buddies! As for myself, I quickly found a large and warm group of fellow grad students and post-doc researchers, themselves from all parts of the globe, with which to explore Monterey. Monterey is a gorgeous place and I truly believe the Bay, the Aquarium and the Research Institute there are national treasures. I made many new friends and traded business cards and kind words with fellow students and veteran researchers alike, sharing our love of ocean life with geek-like enthusiasm. However, we also learned a great deal just how much is at stake for our beloved oceans. Whether it be oil spills, deep-sea mining, plastic pollution, over-fishing, or global warming, there are innumerable perils humankind has wrought on the oceans. Between this call to arms, the beauty and awe of the science, and the comradery of the community, I have never been so inspired to remain in academia and contribute to a scientific field than I was by this symposium. With no small amount of effort, and a whole lot of luck, I hope to attend the next symposium in Japan to see my new friends again and to share in their discoveries while working to keep our oceans healthy and diverse well into the future.