Page 1


08 annual report

Foreword 2008 was another successful year for the SERPENT Project. Our worldwide collaboration was successful in making a total of 26 offshore visits alongside a busy schedule in the laboratory. The year saw a period of building on recent successes and experiences to progress our science. In 2008 we were able to carry out innovative and insightful work using industrial ROVs as scientific tools. We hope you will enjoy the new format for our Annual Report, especially the Missions calendar pages with its at-a-glance timeline of all the missions for the year. With the highly dynamic and opportunistic nature of the SERPENT Project it is sometimes possible to focus entirely on the next mission. The scientific process requires a measured, thorough analysis, so it is essential to find a balance between the field work and laboratory time. For this reason we used some of 2008 as a time to review and collate the data we have been collecting since 2002. We now have a whole range of exciting observations using our existing data and our latest experiments which are currently in the write-up stages. The individual academic institutions that make up SERPENT have all had their successes pursuing a range of scientific disciplines under the SERPENT banner. At the National Oceanography Centre in the UK, Dr Daniel Jones and Dr Andrew Gates have concentrated their research into the effects of disturbance on deep sea ecosystems whilst exciting results on diversity of marine zooplankton have been regularly reported from Prof Mark Benfield’s GULF SERPENT research group at Louisiana State University. SEA SERPENT has also been busy with a wide range of activities from well head colonisation studies to consultation with Industry and Government. At the University of Wollongong, Dr Danielle Skropeta has been engaged in natural product research on deep sea organisms and developing new methods for studying deep-sea ecology. A further exciting development was the launch of the new-look SERPENT website which makes use of the latest technology to increase the site’s functionality. Our new online quick report format, Mini Sites has made the mission data more transparent and accessible, making it easier to highlight our industrial partnerships. You can read more about the new website in this review. Following on from our progress in 2008 we are excited about the many new collaborations and opportunities we already have in place for 2009 and onwards to 2010. We are very grateful for the funding, offshore time and support we have received from all of our partners and collaborators and we hope you enjoy these highlights from 2008. The SERPENT Team 1

Contents 1 2 3 4 5 7 19 23 25 27 30

Foreword Contents SERPENT Team Rationale, Our Mission, Our Priorities SERPENT around the world 2008 Calendar Missions 9 UK 10 Republic of Ireland 11 Gulf of Mexico 15 Australia 17 Norway Outreach & Events 2008 Publications Partners & Collaborators Research Assistants & Students Technology Gallery

Back cover: Contact details

Front cover image: An octopus looks on from behind a colourful cerianthid anemone at the Cashel prospect in the North-East Atlantic off the Republic of Ireland. Back Cover image: An Oceaneering Magnum ROV illuminates the darkness at 1186 m in the Faroe-Shetland channel. Image of UK and Ireland courtesy of NASA.



Dr Mark Benfield, Louisiana State University, US Dr Andrew Gates, National Oceanography Centre (NOC) Dr Daniel Jones, NOC Dr Adele Pile, University of Sydney (UoSydney) Dr Murray Thomson, (UoSydney) Dr Ben Wigham, Newcastle University, UK

SERPENT Outreach Rob Curry, NOC

SERPENT Research Assistants Katie Pullen, NOC Nicolai Roterman, NOC Vanessa Valenzuela (UoSydney)

Collaborative Research

Dr David Bone, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Venezuela Dr David Booth, University of Technology, Sydney (UoT) Dr Samantha Callear, University of Southampton, UK (UoS) Dr Juan J Cruz, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Venezuela Dr Adrian Glover, Natural History Museum, UK Professor C. William Keevil, UoS Professor Chari Pattiaratchi, University of Western Australia Dr Danielle Skropeta, University of Wollongong, Australia (UoW) Dr Adele Pile, (UoSydney) Dr Murray Thomson, (UoSydney) Memorial University of Newfoundland INIP - National Institute for Fisheries Research, Angola BCLME - Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem Census of Marine Life

Associated Research

Dr Anthony Jensen, NOC Dr Chris Hauton, NOC Dr Lawrence Hawkins, NOC

Graduate Researchers

Sarah Murty, NOC Dr Tania Smith, NOC Joe Carolan, UoW David Walker, University of Southampton, UK David Cummings, (UoSydney) Ashley Fowler, UoT Andrew Guerin, NOC Iñigo Martinez Saez del Burgo, Fisheries Research Services, Aberdeen, UK


Rationale The SERPENT Project (Scientific & Environmental ROV Partnership using Existing iNdustrial Technology) is a collaborative programme between scientific partners, institutions and a network of major oil and gas operators and contractors. SERPENT is hosted by the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, one of the world’s largest research and teaching organisations specialising in deep-sea science and oceanography. The project centres around the opportunistic use of ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) in operational settings during periods of stand-by time and the wider utilisation of data collected as part of routine offshore work and environmental assessment studies.

Our Mission Through close collaboration with key players in the oil and gas industry, the SERPENT project aims to make cutting-edge ROV technology and data more accessible to the world’s science community, sharing knowledge and progressing deep-sea research. The programme will interact with science and conservation groups globally and transparently communicate findings to the public to increase the awareness of the marine realm.

Our Priorities • • • • • • •

Catalogue and describe marine species Examine global distributions of deep-sea species Examine effects of human-induced change in the deep sea Communicate key marine issues to regulators & industry Develop experimental approaches to deep sea science Inform the public about the deep-sea environment Encourage best practice during offshore activities

Because of the nature of offshore work in the oil and gas industry, the SERPENT project operates under these Golden Rules: ZERO increased risk to safety ZERO interference to operational work schedules offshore. 4

SERPENT around the world United Kingdom (West of Shetland)

Eire Canada

United States (Gulf of Mexico)

Mauritania Brazil




Barents Sea Norway

United Kingdom (North Sea)



Western Australia

Southern Australia

World bathymetry map courtesy of NASA


2008 Calendar 2008 Calendar Missions see pages 9 - 18 Gulf SERPENT

Thunder Horse Mission 1 Discoverer Deep Seas



Mission core time UK SERPENT


Cashel Missions 1 - 3 Buzzard Missions 1 - 2

Ocean Bounty Mission 1 Songa Venus Mission Ocean Patriot Mission Stena Clyde Mission 1 Hivila Harmony Mission 1 - 3






Carribean Festival

Arctic Frontiers Set up Science

Oceans and Earth Day

Oceanology International

Tunza 2008 Dorchester Science Chevron

Outreach see pages 19 - 22 7

Event date

Mission lead-in and debrief Gulf SERPENT

Thunder Horse Missions 2 - 3 Deepwater Horizon Development Driller II




Ocean Bounty Mission 2 Havila Harmony Mission 4 - 5 Wilcraft Mission Mutineer 14 Mission Stena Clyde Missions 2 - 3



Haklang 1 - 2 Rosebank North1




Tall Ships Race Ocean Commotion Fair


Southampton Boat Show

Environment Week, Aberdeen

SUT Christmas Lectures 19 June Chevron/SERPENT Deep Seas Trump cards published

20 July SERPENT FTP facility launched

5 October Gulf SERPENT Highlights Video Released

18 November New SERPENT website launched


United Kingdom United Kingdom SERPENT’s collaboration with Chevron went from strength to strength in 2008 when Dr Daniel Jones visited “Rosebank North”, west of the Shetland Isles in the UK. This offered the opportunity to build on the three 2007 visits to the Transocean Rather at “Rosebank”, just to the south. Chevron offered the opportunity to work with the Oceaneering ROV team on board their newly commissioned drillship the Stena Carron (right) which is curently the world’s largest drill ship. Daniel made a trial visit in December 2008 in preparation for the filming of an episode of the BBC Coast series which will feature the SERPENT project’s work and will be returning to the vessel in 2009 to explore the unknown species in the deep waters of the Faroe-Shetland Channel. The North Sea SERPENT team at the FRS Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen participated in 2 sampling missions during spring 2008 at Nexen Inc.’s Buzzard platform in the North Sea. The team monitored interannual changes in fish assemblages and their behaviour in relation to the construction of the Buzzard platform. A combination of traditional fisheries survey methods such as trawling along with newer visual methods were used. These methods include the opportunistic collection of ROV footage from pipelines and structural inspections and ad hoc Baited Underwater Camera (BUC) surveys both, inside and outside the 500m excluded zone surrounding the platform. In April 2008 PhD student Iñigo Martinez and FRS Marine Laboratory technician Martin Burns visited the Buzzard Field for a week. ROV operators from Film-Ocean assembled their new LAunch and Recovery System (LARS) on the south side of the Quarters and Utilities deck of the platform. This allowed a quick and easy deployment of the equipment. The FRS baited camera frame was deployed successfully on 5 occasions attracting scores of echinoderms (starfish and urchins), hermit crabs, flatfish (principally common dab and plaice), and a shoal of coalfish (also known as coley or saithe). This species had previously been observed within the boundaries of the structure from ROV footage during inspections.


Immediately following on from this mission, the equipment was transferred to the Buzzard stand-by vessel VOS Lismore and a survey of the wider area around the platform carried out with two baited camera systems inside and outside the 500m excluded zone. Over the course of a month 22 deployments of between 4 and 16 hours were achieved. Along with previous year’s deployments, these data are being analyzed to explore the changes in fish assemblage, not only with distance to the platform but also in relation to time of day, tidal and other influences. To quantify the impact of tidal patterns the baited camera was fitted with a current meter that collects depth, temperature, bearing, and speed of current during 30 seconds every minute. One of the cameras and a current meter was left at the Buzzard site on the last trip recording current data on the sea bed for one month. This will allow better understanding of the influence of currents on the presence and behaviour of different fish species around the platform.

Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland An increase in hydrocarbon exploration activity in the Atlantic off the coast of the Republic of Ireland saw Andrew Gates visit County Donegal to carry out the SERPENT Project’s first Irish mission. Between May and July Andrew visited Diamond Offshore’s Ocean Vanguard semi-submersible drilling rig at the Cashel site on three occasions as part of StatoilHydro’s international exploration programme. At a depth of 175 metres, Cashel is in shallower water than some of SERPENT’s recent work, allowing the ROV to dive more frequently during a shift because of the relatively short journey time to the seafloor. Andrew used the opportunity to continue SERPENT’s recent drive towards improving the use of experimental methods to understand ecology in these waters. The first visit proved a valuable opportunity to collect background information about the abundance of the different species of animals on the sea bed. This paved the way for the experimental study of the effects of disturbance on a small species of starfish called Porania pulvillus, which had been identified as one of the most common animals easily visible with the ROV cameras. During the second and third visits a series of experimental chambers were set up on the sea bed at increasing distance from the source of the drilling disturbance. Specimens of Porania were placed in each chamber to determine how they were affected by exposure to the drill cuttings. Tissue samples from each animal were collected on completion of the experiment and the results are currently being worked on. As well as the experimental study, images and video data were also collected. Some of the image highlights are shown here but for video highlights, including a particularly inquisitive octopus which had a tendency to swim along in front of the ROV during video transects, take a look at the Cashel video gallery at www.serpentproject. com/galleries/. Images top to bottom: An inquisitive octopus insists on stealing the limelight. A colourful cerianthid anemone and yes, there’s that octopus again! A Ling (Molva molva) investigating the area around the BOP. This anemone was observed feeding on a small fish. Brittle stars like this one were common at Cashel.


Gulf of Mexico Gulf of Mexico 2008 marked the third year of research in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the project began with funding from NOAA’s Ocean Exploration program, 2008 marked the first of three years of funding from the Minerals Management Service (MMS) – an agency of the US Department of the Interior. In addition to direct funding from MMS, the Gulf team also receive in-kind matching funding from BP based on the value of ROV time contributed to the project. Gulf SERPENT is focused on the animals that live in the water column below 200m. Our research is designed to document biodiversity in the mesopelagic (200 – 1000m) and bathypelagic (1000 – 4000m) zones. We are interested in determining what species are present, where they are located spatially and vertically, how their distributional patterns change seasonally, and what they are doing. During 2008 we worked with BP at five deepwater sites: Thunder Horse, Discoverer Enterprise, Development Driller II, Deepwater Horizon, and Mad Dog. In cooperation with Chevron, we worked with the Discoverer Deep Seas. All sites provided excellent support and the number of ROV hours conducted during 2008 by all sites totalled approximately 230h. During the summer we hosted our Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center summer student intern – Ms. Ranae ‘Dani’ McHugh. Dani was from the University of Maine at Mathias and she worked with Gulf SERPENT for six weeks. During that time she visited Thunder Horse (twice), the DD2 and the Deepwater Horizon. Her work with these sites provided valuable observations of a variety of marine organisms including many that had not been previously observed by Gulf SERPENT. Thunder Horse placed both their ROVs (Saipem-America’s Innovator 15 and 19) at our disposal for extended periods during July and in that month alone, we logged over 43 h of survey time below Thunder Horse. That intense level of effort paid big dividends and two of the observations were definitely big animals.


The Innovator 15 recorded outstanding video of the enormous jellyfish Stygiomedusa gigantea below Thunder Horse. This observation was the third time that we have seen S. gigantea in the Gulf. It was also the highest quality

Above: Lani Clough, (left) MATE Center Sum Intern Ranae 'Dani' McHugh from the Univer Innovator 19 ROV aboard Thunder Horse du

Below: Part of the outstanding and rare vide taken under the Thunder Horse rig clearly sh to associate closely with this enormous jellyfi diameter of up to 140cm and its arms are be times the disc diameter.

mmer Intern Coordinator and 2008 Summer rsity of Maine at Mathias next to the uring a SERPENT Mission in July 2008.

eo footage of Stygiomedusa gigantea hows Thalassobathia pelagica, a fish know fish. The disc has been known to reach a elieved to reach lengths of up to 3 or more

video of this enormous animal and included clear footage of a fish (Thalassobathya pelagica) that lives in close association with Stygiomedusa. These three observations of Stygiomedusa are the first records of this species in the Gulf of Mexico. We also received two observations of a large deep sea oarfish beneath Thunder Horse. Oarfishes can reach lengths of over 30 feet and one that the Innovator 19 ROV encountered below 1521 feet (464 m) was probably at least 20 feet long. A third notable record from below Thunder Horse came in July when Innovator 15 recorded spectacular footage of a squid called Grimalditeuthis bonplandi (see over). This squid employs a specialized lure that it uses to attract prey to within striking range. What made this observation so remarkable was that we were able to observe the squid actively fishing with its lure and discovered that the lure wriggles like a small fish. No other squid has been reported to use such a unique lure and we are in the process of writing a scientific paper on the behavior that will also use observations of G. bonplandi from Innovator 19 and from the Oceaneering Millennium 7 ROV at Discoverer Enterprise. The Discoverer Enterprise Millennium 7 ROV continued to provide excellent footage from the waters of Mississippi Canyon. One of their observations documented a pair of squids (Histioteuthis) hanging out at a depth of 459 m. Neither animal was disturbed by the presence of the large ROV and we should point out that we have received more observations of a variety of different squids from below the Enterprise than from any other single site. Squids are of particular interest to us because oceanographers have long known that a large population of sperm whales lives in Mississippi Canyon. Sperm whales feed on cephalopods, however almost nothing is known about the biodiversity of their cephalopod prey in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Observations of squids and octopuses collected by Gulf SERPENT are providing the first real information on what cephalopod species these large whales may be eating. We are working with Chevron and the Subsea7 Hercules 8 ROV aboard the Discoverer Deep Seas (DDS). In February 2008 Mark Benfield visited the DDS and spent two days working the ROV beneath the DDS. During that time, we collected outstanding footage of a wide diversity of marine organisms. Data collection by the DDS is valuable because


Gulf of Mexico Gulf of Mexico continued

it is the most southerly site in our observational network and we know little about the fauna that inhabit the deep waters further offshore. We received so many great observations from our participating sites that we decided we had to share some of our greatest hits. A short highlights video premiered in the fall of 2008 and we were amazed by how popular it became. One of the ROV personnel uploaded it to YouTube and it has become quite a favorite. You can download the highlights video from the SERPENT Project website at php#gulfvideo. Education and outreach are an important part of Gulf SERPENT. During October we participated in Ocean Commotion – Louisiana Sea Grant’s annual ocean education exhibition for K-12 school students. The booth was visited by large numbers of students and the unexpected highlight turned out to be dressing up in our personal protective equipment. Our research depends upon the quality of our observations. During 2008 we received a generous ($30,000) grant from BP to purchase a new 8 megapixel digital still camera and strobe system from Oceaneering. This new camera system is currently being integrated with the EMAG ROV on the Deepwater Horizon. We hope to have it fully operational by the summer of 2009 and with it we should be able to better document and identify marine life. Oceaneering is also incorporating HD Video camera systems on all their new ROVs. During some surveys conducted for BP in the MC682, we were fortunate to obtain HD footage of an unusual squid – Joubiniteuthis portier and a large medusa belonging to the genus Poralia.


Gulf SERPENT was well represented at a variety of scientific conferences and industry meetings. During the summer, presentations on our project were given at the

Inset picture: Anthony Harwin (Oceaneering) and Mark Benfield (LSU) with the new DPC-8000 still camera funded by a donation from BP. Main picture: A swimming sea cucumber below the Deepwater Horizon rig imaged by an Oceaneering ROV equipped with the new digital still camera.

MMS Deepwater Symposium in New Orleans and the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) Forum in Houston. In addition, Mark Benfield began giving a regular lecture on Gulf SERPENT at monthly ROV Supervisor Training courses conducted by Oceaneering in Houston. Through this interaction, we hope to familiarize all ROV supervisors with the goals and methodology of Gulf SERPENT. Image above: A video still of Grimalditeuthis bonplandi, an amazing and little-observed squid which has an unusual method of attracting prey. It has a wriggling, fish-like lure which attracts other fish to within striking distance. Far left: Hundreds of elementary school students visited the Gulf SERPENT booth at the Louisiana Sea Grant Ocean Commotion exhibition. Image below: All SERPENT observations could not take place without the generous support and hard work of dedicated ROV personnel. L to R: Mark Epps (Subsea7), Tony Kastropil (Subsea7), Mark Benfield (LSU), and Terry Todd (Subsea7) in the ROV control van aboard the DDS during a SERPENT Mission in January 2008.


Australia Australia During 2008 South East Asia (SEA) SERPENT engaged in a wide range of projects utilizing oil rig installations off the NW Shelf of Australia and contributed to Industry discussions about decommissioning. SEA SERPENT are comprised of 5 University academic Chief Investigators who supervised 3 honours students, 2 postgraduate students and 1 technical officer. Natalie Pastro, an honours student, David Cummings, Ash Fowler, both postgraduate students and Danielle Skropeta, a Chief Investigator, went out on expeditions onboard the vessel Havilla Harmony to collect old well heads that had been left behind from rigs that had been decommissioned and were subsequently removed. The large steel structures that had been positioned at depths of around 80150 m for approximately 20 years had become home to a diverse range of vertebrates and invertebrates including shrimp, crabs, isopods and amphipods as well as small fish. While larger pelagic fishes dispersed after wellhead removal, several species of smaller fish became entrapped within the structure and were still there when the well head was brought on board. The well heads therefore provided a terrific insight into the ecosystems that develop when a hard structure is placed on a sandy benthos and demonstrate part of the rig to reef transition process. Ash has begun demographic and population genetic studies on the fish that were captured and David is working on the dietary habits of these animals. Natalie collected deep sea sponges and found several species that hold bioactive molecules including inhibitors of enzymes that may be functioning in certain cancer cells. The long term goal of these studies is to find new therapeutic molecules from deep sea marine sources.


Images top to bottom: Echo 1 well head in situ, showing abundant fish swimming around the structure. On the Havila Harmony - Ms. Natalie Pastro with a recovered well head; Coral – the hard structure of a well head allows attachment of sessile organisms and the formation of a reef; A colourful shrimp – one of many crustaceans that had made its home in a well head.

During her honours year Helen Smith spent 10 days on the Ocean Bounty rig and was able to trap literally hundreds of invertebrates including the discovery of a new species of shrimp and a new species of amphipod. Electron microscopy studies on the microanatomy of the antennae of the new amphipod are now well underway. Helen also studied the effects of low toxicity water based drill oil on the physiology of marine crustaceans. In her honours year Hannah Elstub began work on using shallow water isopods as a model for investigating deep sea crustacean biology. Kate Swain conducted studies on the turbulence generated close to the sea bed at well sites off Exmouth for her honours thesis and gathered data on sediment resuspension due to turbulence in low current environments. These studies are revealing valuable data on how drill spoil deposits change with time in the deep sea. Vanessa Valenzuela became our technical officer late in 2008 and has been working on collecting and analysing video transect data on the sea bed around the blow out preventers in various sites. Adele Pile and Murray Thomson, both Chief Investigators, went out to the Stena Clyde oil rig and took video footage of a wide range of deep sea organisms and trapped over 100 specimens of a new species of amphipod. This animal is now being studied to expand the existing taxonomy of its family in collaboration with The Australian Museum. Dave Booth has been engaged with Industry and Government to develop science-based policy on future decommissioning of oil rigs and associated subsea structures under the premise that disposal options will depend, among other factors, on the ecological situation of individual structures or, for example, whether each structure contributes to biological production. Images top to bottom: Amphipod microscopic sensory apparatus – this setae is about 100 times thinner than a human hair is present on the antenna and allows the crustacean to sense food at depths where light is not present, and yes it looks like a duck’s head. Dr. Murray Thomson collecting a new species of amphipod from traps baited with bacon. This Octopus is sitting on Murray’s crustacean trap fishing out the shrimp that were inside. Making traps – Brad is taking a break from piloting the ROV to help make crustacean traps. Dr. Adele Pile with an octopus caught in a sediment trap.


Norway Norway StatoilHydro have again been very supportive of the SERPENT Project in their home waters off Norway. Dr Andrew Gates visited the Transocean Leader in September and October 2008 to explore the sea bed at 1250 m water depth at the Haklang site, west of Brønnøysund in the Norwegian Sea. Andrew’s two visits to Haklang were the latest in a series of missions on board the semi-submersible drilling rig, Transocean Leader. Earlier missions include the trips to Midnattsol in 2007 and Onyx in 2005 with further missions to the Leader planned for 2009. Regularly working on the same vessel has many advantages. The continuity means that the ROV teams are already familiar with SERPENT and in many cases are well practised in the otherwise unusual protocols needed to collect scientific samples. To date, a great deal of exciting research to understand the effects of disturbance on deep sea organisms has been carried out through SERPENT. To fit further pieces to this puzzle, at Haklang Andrew took a detailed series of sediment samples to investigate the extent of the physical disturbance following the drilling activity. Without this detailed information on the physical nature of the disturbance there is a limit to the understanding that can be gained about the effects on the animals. These data provide essential information to increase our understanding of the effects beyond the visual observations we have successfully used in the past. The seabed under the deep waters at Haklang is home to an interesting array of creatures. Andrew collected specimens of some of those that we regularly find in the Norwegian Sea and Faroe-Shetland Channel but as yet had not been able to identify because we did not have speciments. An example of this is the starfish Pontaster tenuispinus.


On his visits to the Transocean Leader Andrew gives presentations during the HSE meetings to the rig staff about SERPENT and his findings. This not only engages the rig’s crew with the SERPENT Project but also gives a very different perspective to the offshore working environment. Many of the Leader’s crew were fascinated to learn about the diversity of life over 1 km deep below their feet.

Main image: The Transocean Leader rig Images top to bottom: The push cores were collected using the precise manipulation capabilities of the mechanical manipulator arms. An Ophiuroid or brittle star. Rays are one of the most common fish found in the deep waters off Norway. A Cirrate octopod in the water column.


Outreach & Events Outreach & Events January Arctic Frontiers

March Setup Science Oceans & Earth Day Oceanology International

April Carribbean Festival

June 19

Tunza 2008 Dorchester Science Fair

Theres Requat (13) from Austria enjoys the Oceaneering ROV simulator at Stavanger during the SERPENT/StatoilHydro workshop at Tunza 2008. Photo: Haagen Tangen Eriksen, StatoilHydro

Dr Andrew Gates presented a poster and gave a talk about SERPENT’s work with StatoilHydro at the Tornerose well in the Barents Sea. Arctic Frontiers is an annual science and policy conference aimed at promoting sustainable human use of the Arctic The NOC hosted the 2008 National Science and Engineering Week event “Oceans and Earth Day”. The SERPENT display was busy as more than 200 children became involved in the activities. There was a great deal of interest in the work of the SERPENT Project from adults, children and teachers alike. Southampton City Council ran a Caribbean Festival and SERPENT were there to meet the public. More than 35,000 visitors enjoyed the two-day event. The SERPENT stand entertained and educated children and adults with images, videos and games linked to the project. This event generated another display at Thomas Hardye School The SERPENT project was invited to the Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester when it held its first Science Fair. Up to 250 children were treated to presentations and activities highlighting the work of SERPENT. The children, from 11 Dorset schools were amazed and facinated by the variety of creatures we had discovered.

As part of the National Science and Engineering Week 2008 SERPENT provided DVDs and presentations for use at SetUp Science taking place in three Cheshire Schools. More than 100 students aged 14-16 years were introduced to Oceanography through the engaging images and video footage.

SERPENT made excellent use of its prominent position and consequently generated much interest on the National Oceanography Centre stand at the Oceanology International 2008 exhibition at London’s Excel Centre.

StatoilHydro, a leading partner of the SERPENT project was supporting the Tunza 2008 conference (see main picture). 1000 participants from 106 countries attended. SERPENT along with StatoilHydro and Oceaneering, designed and delivered a highly successful workshop entitled “Deep sea species - what is actually down there?”


Outreach & Events Outreach & Events July Tall Ships Race Chevron Environment Week, Aberdeen

September Southampton Boat Show

November Ocean Commotion

December 21

SUT AGM SUT Christmas Lectures

The Tall Ships Race 2008, which took place in Liverpool, UK was an exciting opportunity to showcase the project. Photo: Courtesy of Sail Training International

SERPENT’s display in the NOCS marquee at the prestigious Tall Ships event (see main picture) in Liverpool was very well attended. Families that visited our stand used a Mini ROV to try to fish for coins in our big aquarium tank! SERPENT was afloat in September at the Southampton Boat Show with an atmospheric display that caught the imagination of the public on board the RV Callista, the National Oceanography Centre’s coastal Research Vessel, We also had a hands-on mini-ROV display on the Southampton University stand. SERPENT strengthened ties with the Society for Underwater Technology (SUT) by attending two of their prestigious events in December 2008: Dr. Andrew Gates from the SERPENT Project gave a very well received presentation at the Society for Underwater Technology (SUT) AGM on Thursday 11th December. The AGM took place on board the historic ship, the HQS Wellington moored on the Thames. Andrew spoke to an interested audience from all areas of the underwater technology industries about the SERPENT Project, bringing the SUT up-to-date with the work of SERPENT. In December Dr. Daniel Jones delivered two presentations for the Society for Underwater Technology (SUT) Christmas Lectures at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Daniel spoke to GCSE and A-level students about Underwater Robotics and their use in science, with a particular focus on the SERPENT Project.

Andrew Gates and Rob Curry visited Chevron in Aberdeen to attend their annual Green Week which aims to highlight the work of the environmental projects they support. Andrew spoke about the work he carried out on the Transocean Rather in 2007 and Rob used the opportunity to display some of the most recent images and video from the work in collaboration with Chevron. Ocean Commotion was held November 13 on the LSU campus. Gulf SERPENT was one of 68 exhibitors who hosted over 3000 elementary through high school students at this annual coastal education forum. Our booth featured the 2008 Highlights Video, a slide-show of what its like to work offshore, and a chance for students to try on personal protective equipment (FRC, hard hat, safety glasses). The foam ROVs and Innovator stickers donated by SaipemAmerica were a big hit! Judging by their enthusiasm, many of these kids will want to work offshore. They were particularly excited to learn that their video game skills may come in handy if they want to become ROV pilots!

Students had a chance to try on personal protective equipment (FRC, hard hat & safety glasses).


2008 Publications 2008 Publications Refereed Publications Skropeta, D. (2008) Deep Sea Natural Products. Natural Products Reports. 25: 1131 1166. Andrews, G. O., Simpson, S. J., Pile, A. J. (2008) New method for presenting nutritionally defined food sources to marine organisms. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 6: 299–306. Benfield, M.C., Thompson, B.A. and Caruso, J.H. (2008) The second report of a sleeper shark (Somniosus (Somniosus) sp.) from the bathypelagic waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Bulletin of Marine Science, 82(2): 195–198

Non-refereed Publications


Jones, D. O. B. (2008) Exploring the last uncharted realm. Explorers Journal. Winter 2008. Gates, A.R., Jones, D.O.B., Benfield, M., Kaariainen, J.I. (2008) SERPENT Cruise Reports 2007. National Oceanography Centre, Southampton Cruise Reports Series No. 30. 158pp. Jones, D. O. B., Park, I. F. J. & Gates, A. R.(2008) Techniques for Monitoring the Recovery of Deep, Cold-Water Habitats Following Physical Disturbance From Drilling Discharges. Proceedings of the SPE International Conference on Health, Safety, and Environment in Oil and Gas Exploration and Production, 15-17 April 2008, Nice, France. 111629-MS. Jones, D. O. B. (2008) Exploration of the Deep Reefs of Bonaire. Explorers Club Flag Report. Flag 44. Jones, D. O. B., Gates, A. R., & Kaariainen, J. (2008) Uranus SERPENT report. National Oceanography Centre Southampton Research and Consultancy Report; No. 35 Jones, D. O. B., Gates, A. R., & Kaariainen, J., (2008) Morvin SERPENT Report, National Oceanography Centre Southampton Research and Consultancy Report; No. 36 Jones, D. O. B., Gates, A. R., & Kaariainen, J. (2008) Edvarda SERPENT Report, National Oceanography Centre Southampton Research and Consultancy Report; No. 37 Jones, D. O. B., Gates, A. R., & Kaariainen, J. (2008) Brugdan SERPENT Report, National Oceanography Centre Southampton Research and Consultancy Report; No. 38 Jones, D. O. B., Gates, A. R., & Kaariainen, J. (2008) Tornerose SERPENT Report, National Oceanography Centre Southampton Research and Consultancy Report; No. 39 Jones, D. O. B.& Gates, A. R. (2008) Orca SERPENT Field Visit Report, National Oceanography Centre Southampton Research and Consultancy Report; No. 40 Gates, A. R., Jones, D. O. B.& Kaariainen, J. (2008) Orphan Basin SERPENT Final Report, National Oceanography Centre Southampton Research and Consultancy Report; No. 41 Gates, A. R., Jones, D. O. B.(2008) Midnattsol SERPENT visit report and initial presentation of results. National Oceanography Centre Southampton Research and Consultancy Report; No. 42

Student theses PhD Students Murty, S. (in progress) Towards Deep-Sea Ecotoxicology: Experimental Approaches With Echinoids. Ph.D. Thesis, School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton. Martinez, I. (in progress) North Sea oil and gas production platforms as fish aggregation devices. Ph D Thesis. Newcastle University. Guerin, A. J. (in progress) Artificial reef properties of North Sea oil and gas production platforms. Ph.D. Thesis, School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton. Smith, T. (2008) Sexual chemistry in the deep sea. Ph.D. Thesis, School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton.

MSc Students Januszewska, Marta (2008) The effects of disturbance on deep-water megafaunal assemblages – a meta-analysis. Roteman, C. N. (2008) Effect of disturbance on deep-water meiofaunal communities. Gunnigle, Eoin (2008) Bioturbation from shallow to deep waters.

MOcean/MMBiol students Papworth, Martyn (in progress) Landscape scale effects of habitat on megafaunal communities in the Faroe-Shetland Channel. Lebrato, Mario (2008) Mass deposition of Pyrosoma atlanticum as a food source for the deep sea.

BEng (Environmental) student Kate Swain (2008) Sediment resuspension on continental shelves and slopes due to turbulence.

BSc Students Helen Smith (2008) An ecotoxicological study of drilling fluids used in the oil and gas industry on shallow and deep water crustaceans. Hannah Elstub (2008) The role of chemoreception in the detection of food in Cirolana harfordi and the implications of dispersal


Partners & Collaborators



Academic & Associated

BP (UK) BP (Angola) BP (USA) Chevron Australia Chevron Canada Ltd Chevron UK Kongsberg Marine Simulation LLC Nexen Inc. Oceaneering Sapiem-America Inc. Santos Ltd. Subsea 7 StatoilHydro Stena Drilling Shell TOTAL E&P UK and Total Foundation for Biodiversity and the Sea Transocean Woodside Energy Ltd.

Australian Museum BBC Natural History Unit, UK Fisheries Research Services, Marine Laboratory, UK Louisiana State University, USA Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Centre, Monterey, USA Minerals Management Service (MMS) National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth, UK National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd. (NIWA) Newcastle University, UK National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), USA National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, UK Natural Environment Research Council, UK OceanLab, Aberdeen University, UK Offshore Energy Centre, Houston, USA Smithsonian Institute, USA Society for Underwater Technology, UK Texas A&M University, USA Universidad Sim贸n Bol铆var, Venezuela, SA University of Southampton, UK University of Sydney, Australia University of Technology, Sydney, Australia University of Western Australia University of Wollongong, Australia U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), USA Virginia Institute fo Marine Science, USA Zoological Society, London, UK

The SERPENT project would like to take this opportunity to thank all our Partners and Collaborators for their support throughout 2008. It is only through your dedication and real committment to research into the environment of the deep oceans that the project can exist. We look forward to continuing and expanding our partnerships with you in the coming years.


Research Assistants & Students David Cummings

PhD: Dinning in the deep: Trophic associations and nutritional challenges of life in the deep-sea, University of Sydney (UoSydney) There is currently a paucity of information on nutritional webs in the food-limited areas of the sea. David is investigating how marine organisms respond to limited food resources and how this may influence the nutritional choices they make. For his project he is collecting animals from a range of locations on Australia’s North West Shelf using the resources made available through the SEA SERPENT initiative and is utilising gut analysis and stable isotope techniques to determine the trophic associations both within and between groups of organisms.

Sarah Murty

PhD: Towards Deep Sea Ecotoxicology: Experimental Approaches with Echinoids, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS) Sarah used the samples collected as part of our major 2007 field experiment into the effects of disturbance on the sea-urchin Echinus acutus at the Ragnarokk to look for evidence of stress at the molecular level. She successfully showed expression of stress proteins in response to disturbance and is now in the latter stages of writing the results of the innovative study.

Nicolai Roterman

MSc 2008 and SERPENT Research Assistant, NOCS On several SERPENT offshore missions samples have been collected to investigate the effects of disturbance on the meiofauna (the smaller organisms that live within the sediment). Nicolai used the samples collected at Brugdan in the Faroe-Shetland Channel in 2006 to determine how nematode worms were affected. He established that alongside the expected reduction in numbers, there was a change in the species composition of the samples closer to the disturbance.

Eoin Gunnigle

MSc 2008, NOCS An important aspect to consider in the recovery of deep-sea sediment from disturbance is that of bioturbation. Eoin spent his research MSc project developing methods to investigate bioturbation. He used an experimental approach to investigate the process in a shallow water site near Southampton with the aim of using his results to help plan investigations of bioturbation in future SERPENT missions.

Marta Januszewska

MSc 2008, NOCS Ever since SERPENT started making offshore visits in 2005, the project has been collecting video data to assess the effects of disturbance on the animals on the sea bed. For her MSc project Marta took on the ambitious task of a “meta-analysis” of all the data from our missions to the Faroe-Shetland Channel and the Norwegian Basin. Her findings suggested interesting patterns of faunal communities related to depth and temperature and also similar responses to drilling disturbance.

Vanessa Valenzuela


SERPENT Research Assistant, B. Sci. Marine Biology (Hons), UoSydney Vanessa started work in 2008 and is developing the SERPENT samples database. She manages all SERPENT specimens; animal and digital, and routinely analyses and sorts benthic transects and specimens. Vanessa also manages the SERPENT Lab and looks after some logistics and technical issues related to the project.

Katie Pullen

SERPENT Research Assistant, NOCS Katie continued her work looking at changing functional diversity amongst the nematode community for sediment samples collected in the Barents Sea in 2006. She used the tail shapes and mouth parts of the nematodes as indicators for their lifestyle in the sediment and found changing proportional representation of different groups in relation to disturbance.

Helen Smith

Honours 2008, UoSydney Helen used a variety of approaches to investigate the effects of synthetic drill oil on Brine shrimp and isopods. In Helen’s study, she exposed the crustaceans to the drill oils, but found no conclusive indicators of stress in either species. The brine shrimp showed increased activity which may indicate a stress response and survival times may have increased, although further study is needed to confirm this observation.

Hannah Elstub

Honours 2008, UoSydney Hannah used electron microscopy and behavioural studies to compare and contrast the structure and function of the antennae on a marine isopod. Hannah demonstrated that the larger antennae are used for short distance detection of food whereas the smaller antennae are used for long distance odour perception. These studies are increasing our understanding of what attracts deep sea crustaceans to oil rigs.

Kate Swain

Honours 2008, UoSydney Modern sediment transport equations and models do not take into account the possibility of sediment being re-suspended by turbulence, particularly in low current environments. In her study, Kate gathered measurements of the turbulence generated close to the sea bed at well sites off Exmouth, Western Australia and corresponding data on sediment re-suspension in a low current environment. She showed that turbulence is an important factor in sediment re-suspension due to the ‘bursting’ phenomenon and should be further investigated for inclusion into sediment transport equations and future modelling of sediment movement in these environments.

Ranae ‘Dani’ McHugh

Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center summer student intern, Louisiana State University Dani was from the University of Maine at Mathias and she worked with Gulf SERPENT for six weeks. During that time she visited Thunder Horse (twice), the DD2 and the Deepwater Horizon. Her work with these sites provided valuable observations of a variety of marine organisms including many that had not been previously observed by Gulf SERPENT.

Ash Fowler

PhD candidate, UoSydney Ash is studying fish population ecology around oil structures. He completed four cruises in 2008 on the NW Australian shelf studying small anthias reef fish (pseudanthias rubrizonatus) from well heads at 80 and 150 m depth. The presence of young fish indicated recent settlement of this species had occurred. An investigation of the ages of anthias indicated the populations may have been sustained for up to 5 years. Annual growth rates indicated fish grew equally well among shallow and deep sites, however body condition indices, determined from length-weight relationships, indicated juvenile fish may have been in poorer condition on the structures in deeper water.


Technology Gallery Technology Gallery

The technology behind the pictures

Without the sophisticated technologies and vehicles generously offered by our partners, it would not be possible for the SERPENT project to undertake deep sea research. Here are just a few images that highlight the complex technologies we use.


Main background image: An Oceaneering Magnum ROV flexes its powerful manipulators. Clockwise from top left: Marianne Alford is caught off guard while directing Dave Smith in the ROV control van aboard the Discoverer Deep Seas (DDS). An ROV launches with its Tether Management System from the DDS. SERPENT sampling cores in their holsters in the grip of an Oceaneering Magnum ROV at the Haklang prospect during a StatoilHydro mission. A Subsea 7 Centurion ROV on the deck of the DDS in the Gulf of Mexico. The sophisticated camera and lighting systems on an ROV allow the SERPENT project to gather high quality data.



Principal SERPENT Project Office National Oceanography Centre Southampton European Way Southampton SO14 3ZH United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0) 23 80 596357/63 Fax: +44 (0) 23 80 596247 Emails: Dr Daniel Jones: Dr Andrew Gates: Rob Curry:




Gulf SERPENT Dr. Mark C. Benfield Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences 2179 Energy Coast and Environment Building Baton Rouge LA 70803 USA Tel: +1-225-578-63762 Fax: +1-225-578-6531 Email:





SEA SERPENT Dr. Murray Thomson School of Biological Studies Room 314 The Heydon-Laurence Building A08 The University of Sydney NSW, 2006 Australia Tel: +61 2 9036 6412 Email:

w w w . s e r p e n t p r o j e c t . c o m

SERPENT project Annual Report 2008  
SERPENT project Annual Report 2008  

SERPENT project Annual Report 2008