Mesophotic Reef Essay

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I want to be a scientist who is able to make real connections between seemingly disparate problems or challenges, especially that of finding the human value of scientific knowledge, new and established. For my doctorate research, I wish to pursue inquiry into unfamiliar marine organisms in unfamiliar habitats with the hope of contributing to new knowledge and discovering new species. To these ends, I wish to connect my graduate research on sea cucumbers with my ongoing research on mesophotic reefs. Sea cucumbers are diverse worm-like organisms in Class Holothuroidea that have evolved and diversified in a span of 400 million years. Today, all large species are threatened by overfishing. Mesophotic reefs are dimly-lit ecosystems found at depths of 30 to 150 meters that were established after the last Ice Age, over 10,000 years ago. In my country, the Philippines, these deep reefs offer something of a “last hope” for sustaining biodiversity and fisheries given the progressive destruction of the shallower reefs from both man-made and natural causes. For reasons that are both academic and compelling, I would like to ask this overarching question: considering human and evolutionary time scales, are mesophotic reefs "lifeboats" of sea cucumber biodiversity?…show more content…
From an ecological perspective, I posit that (1) mesophotic terraces and platform reefs are deep refugia for conspicuous, deposit-feeding species (Order Aspidochirotida), and that (2) mesophotic walls and scarps are preferred habitats of cryptic, suspension-feeders (Order Dendrochirotida), owing to favorable hydrodynamics in these geomorphological features. Covering a wide range of depths and geomorphologies can yield a wide diversity of known and unknown species, species complexes, and unique morphologies that are ideal for my taxonomic and phylogenetic

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