Geography, Earth and environment at Brighton

Dr Aggeliki Georgiopoulou

Brighton researcher leads the way in vital mapping of mysterious Atlantic depths

Pioneering deep sea research carried out by Brighton lecturer Dr Aggeliki Georgiopoulou has been highlighted in a feature by Eco magazine.

Dr Georgiopoulou is Senior Lecturer in the School of Environment and Technology,and was chief scientist on an expedition in 2018 aboard the Irish Research Vessel Celtic Explorer that is producing important – and sometimes astonishing – findings about a remote and largely unexplored region of the deep seabed known as the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone (CGFZ).

This is the largest geological fault in the northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge, stretching hundreds of kilometres between Ireland and Newfoundland

Among the discoveries made by Dr Georgiopoulou’s team were expanses of fine sediment carpeted with life forms such as feather stars like deep sea meadows, as well as bedrock covered with stunning black corals and roamed by giant sea spiders. Using a ship-borne multibeam echo sounder to scan the geography of the sea bed, the expedition also found at least three mountains higher than 4000m.

“It is astonishing that there is still such a large part of our planet that we have not mapped and we have never seen. More than 80% of the ocean is not explored, when it forms 70% of the planet!,” says Dr Georgiopoulou. “Our expedition revealed complex geological processes that modify established theories for the formation of the oceans.”

The data gathered on the expedition may also provide greater insight into significant hazards that could affect those on nearby shores. “The area is host to mountains with steep sides often marked by landslide scarps,” says Dr Georgiopoulou. “My students and I have focused our research on working out what causes these mountains to crumble into landslides, how frequently this happens – and whether these landslides can cause tsunamis that would affect the North Atlantic coastlines.”

She also points out that living discoveries made by the expedition may also have long-term impact. “We know very little about deep sea habitats and every new place we explore adds to our understanding of deep sea ecology. We are finding thriving habitats with surprising biodiversity. These discoveries will provide vital information for the future protection status of this remote part of the North Atlantic – including a proposal to create the first network of high seas Marine Protected Areas (MPA). ”

You can read the full article in Eco magazine.

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Stephanie Thomson • January 15, 2021

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