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Live in the Sediment: A Worms Eye View

Live in the Sediment: A Worms Eye View

September 27, 2012

The photos show: Left, the frame, the sonde, and the prism. Right, focusing the camera that fits in the prism.

Left: preparing for deployment, the buoy in the background is the transmitter of the real-time data. Right: The frame with the camera is positioned to face the north for reducing transmitted light, and involves getting in the water while someone in the boat checks the image from the camera.

A WormCam is an underwater camera developed at Virginia Institute of Marine Science to capture and transmit underwater images of fauna depth and burrowing activities of benthic creatures and the depth of the interface between oxic and anoxic sediments .  Instruments that record hydrographic conditions such as dissolved oxygen and water temperature are installed with the cameras to record the conditions in the water overlying the sediments.  The still images and time-lapse movies from the WormCams, along with the hydrographic data collected, help scientists better understand the important role that burrowing animals play in the mixing of seafloor sediments and the physical forces that control erosion, deposition and transport of seafloor sediments, nutrients, and contaminants.
The possible effects of contaminants from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill are currently being studied  in sediments near oiled and unoiled Louisiana marshes through the use of two WormCams.   By comparing images and data from the two areas, the researchers hope to understand what effects, if any, the burrowing behavior and the physical forces have had on the deposition, dispersement or transport of contaminants from the spill.  The co-principal investigators for this project are Drs. Robert Diaz from VIMS, Kersey Sturdevant, Duke Marine Lab, and Nancy Rabalais, LUMCON. To view a time-lapse movie of images captured by one of the WormCams, click here.