Help scientists study how wood from land feeds animals in the deep sea

When a tree falls in a forest, it becomes an ecosystem — a source of food and habitation for a diverse array of animals. The same thing is true when a tree falls into the ocean. Or when a wooden boat sinks. Bits of wood that reach the deep sea floor become colonized with all kinds of life. Now, Craig McClain, one of the intrepid minds behind the excellent blog Deep Sea News, is studying those communities, using them to learn more about food webs, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration. And you can help.

McClain and his team have been intentionally dropping pieces of wood into the ocean, and then going back later to collect those wood falls and study the things that have grown on them. One of the ways they do that is by documenting the stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur present in the animals. Different combinations and concentrations of isotopes can tell you a lot about what different animals are eating — who is predator, who is prey, and the role the wood fall plays in those relationships. They need help paying for that stable isotope analysis. For the next nine days, you can donate toward their research at Experiment.com.

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