As part of our STE@M Festival, Dr Jon Copley visited Hampshire Collegiate School to give an evening lecture about exploring the deep ocean, his field of research. Megan in Year 12 provides a review of the evening…

Jon is a professor at Southampton University and was a scientific advisor for the BBC series Blue Planet II. Jon has taken part in many expeditions to explore the deep ocean and is a Bathynaut – an astronaut equivalent for the deep ocean. He has recently released his own book called ‘Ask an Ocean Explorer’.

During the evening’s discussions, Jon explored the history of ocean mapping by telling us about his heroes, including Marie Tharp and Matthew Fontaine Maury. Both paved the way for the modern mapping of the sea bed that we know today through the use of ropes with a weight on the end to echolocation technology which we use variations of today.

We learnt that 100% of the ocean floor is mapped to a resolution of 5km, 15% of the ocean is mapped to 1km and 0.05% of the ocean is mapped to 1-2m resolution. Satellites cannot reach through ocean which why 100% of the ocean is mapped to 5km. This is done by the satellite detecting tiny differences in the surface of the ocean and this can signal any ridges or trenches to a certain extent.

Jon went on to explain how mapping has allowed scientists to spot anomalies which are then investigated and new discoveries made. Such a process led to the discovery of hydro-thermal vents and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The discovery of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge then led to the revelation of tectonic plates and the global ocean ridge, which is the biggest discovery of oceanography and allows us to understand the geo-physics of our earth.

Jon has been part of the discovery of the life on hydrothermal vents which has changed how we view biology on this planet. Hydrothermal vents give out chemical energy which organisms thrive on and disproves everything we believed about sunlight being needed for life. It was really interesting to see some specimen animals from these habits that had been preserved in Perspex.

Jon was extremely engaging and there were endless questions for him after the talk had finished. Some of the questions covered topics such as his biggest fear when diving up to depths of 6km, the threat of plastics to the ocean (as highlighted in many of our STE@M activities) and the threat of global warming as well as some more light-hearted questions such as does he get motion sickness.

We are thankful Jon came to talk to us and give us insight into his field of knowledge, definitely inspiring pupils and parents alike.

By Megan, Year 12


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