Scientists studying the deep sea’s methane vent areas are discovering how the earth’s subsurface activity influences microbial life. Using underwater vehicles (UAVs), our collaborators collect core samples and other data across kilometers of the ocean floor that provide insights into the geochemistry and biology of the environment.

However, it is challenging for them to get an overview and analyse the wide variety of data including high-resolution images of the deep ocean floor, chemistry of underwater methane clouds and DNA of sea life. 

In collaboration with the Orphan Lab, we created OPAL, a visual mapping tool that allows researchers to simultaneously explore geochemical and microbial data in spatial relationships. Scientists can interact with AUV-based photomosaics of the seafloor indicating core locations. In tandem, biological data including diversity and cell counts can be seen in relation to geochemical data. The interactive tool helps illuminate methane vents’ spheres of influence on the composition and concentration of microbial communities.