YanceyProfessor Paul Yancey at the controls of the submersible Alvin

Marine biologists studying the world’s oceans want one thing: To dive deeper into the water.

“Amazingly, only one percent of the deep-sea has been explored,” said Paul Yancey, professor of biology and Carl E. Peterson Endowed Chair of Sciences. 

When Yancey talks about the “deep-sea,” he’s referring to the hadal trenches – zones running from 6,000 meters beneath the surface to the bottom of the ocean. 

Yancey’s years of experience researching these seemingly bottomless pits garnered the Whitman professor a $93,891 grant from the National Science Foundation, which will enable him to continue his research into what survives in the ocean’s deep darkness.

“We don't know what we will find, but we are bound to discover new species,” Yancey said.

Yancey and his students are collaborating with the University of Hawaii and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution through 2014 on what’s being called Project Hades. The project is funded to survey the hadal trench habitats around the Kermadec and Mariana Islands, volcanic arcs located just north of New Zealand and east of the Philippine Sea, respectively. The Mariana Trench is the deepest spot in the world.

Not only did Project Hades capture the attention of the National Science Foundation, but National Geographic contacted Yancey’s team about shooting a TV special on the expedition.

“We are excited about National Geographic's involvement, because one of our mandated missions is public education,” Yancey said. “During the expedition we will broadcast by satellite live to schools all over the world and via the Internet.”