Exploration and Exploitation of the Deep Sea

Tales from the Ocean Trenches

David L. Pawson
National Museum of Natural History

2250th Meeting Abstract
Friday, February 20, 2009 at 8:15 PM

David L. Pawson


The mysterious deep sea and its inhabitants have been studied for less than 150 years. This vast area, comprising about 80% of the total living space on Earth, is steadily revealing it secrets, thanks to increasing scientific interest and improving technology. New animals, new insights into the biology of deep-sea denizens, astonishing habitats, and mineral and hydrocarbon resources, have been reported over the past 30 years. We now have a better understanding of the role of the deep sea in the general economy of our planet. This surge in exploration has been accompanied by a surge in exploitation. New fisheries have been developed, and some species have been fished almost to the vanishing point. Deep-sea minerals and hydrocarbons are being assessed with a view to mining in the near future. Today, the deep ocean’s resources are of great importance to us. This lecture will discuss the future of these resources.

About the Author:

David Pawson is a Senior Scientist at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. He came to the Smithsonian Institution in 1964 as the curator of the echinoderms (sea stars, sea urchins and their allies) collection. He has served as a Department Chair, Associate Director for Science, and Acting Director of the National Museum of Natural History. He conducts research on echinoderms from many parts of the world, especially the deep sea and the vicinity of isolated oceanic islands. His research has taken him to Ascension and Galapagos Islands, the Caribbean, the southern ocean and Antarctica, and he has made more than 100 dives in manned submersibles. He has published more than 200 articles and book chapters on echinoderms, hemichordates, and other marine groups. Other research interests include the US Fish Commission Steamer Albatross (1883-1921) and her scientific crew, and the life and times of his predecessor, Smithsonian echinoderm scientist Austin H. Clark (1880-1954).

He has been the President of the Biological Society of Washington and of the American Society for Biological Nomenclature. He is a recipient of the Polar Medal, and has been a Smithsonian Regents’ Fellow. An active interest in teaching, and in bringing science to the general public, has led to the presentation of about 200 public lectures over the years.

He is on the adjunct faculty of American University, The Johns Hopkins University, and Harvard University. He received his B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Zoology from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

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