An ambitious €9-million ($10.2-million) project to explore the depths of the ocean, ATLAS (A Trans-Atlantic Assessment and Deep-Sea Ecosystem-Based Spatial Management Plan for Europe), has kicked off with its first scientific meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, from 13 to 15 June.
The launch heralds the start of a series of collaborative expeditions over the next four years involving at least 25 research cruises and hundreds of scientists from 10 European countries, the USA and Canada.
ATLAS aims to improve our understanding of the complexity of deep-sea ecosystems and to predict future shifts and vulnerabilities of these ecosystems and their associated species. The multi-disciplinary teams of scientists will be using traditional approaches as well as cutting-edge methods such as environmental DNA (eDNA) sequencing to search water and sediment samples for known and undiscovered species.
A major goal of the project is to develop the scientific knowledge required to manage deep-sea Atlantic resources effectively, in line with the European Commission’s strategy to support sustainability in the marine sector. In support of this aim, ATLAS is planning outreach activities to raise awareness of the importance and vulnerability of the Atlantic ecosystem and the impact humans are having on the ocean environment. Activities will include the development of deep-sea education material, a travelling road show and a new interactive exhibition on the ocean at Dynamic Earth, a science centre in Edinburgh, Scotland.
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