World's Most Ambitious Project To Explore Atlantic Ocean Kicks Off


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Down we go! ChristianPop/Shutterstock

One of the most ambitious and large-scale attempts to assess the condition of the deep-sea Atlantic ecosystem has just kicked off. The European Commission’s Horizon 2020 funding program has supported the endeavor, which has been dubbed ATLAS (A Trans-Atlantic Assessment and deep-water ecosystem-based spatial management plan for Europe).

The launch, which took place on June 13-15 in Edinburgh, Scotland, marks the start of an initiative involving hundreds of scientists from 10 European nations, the United States, and Canada, and will involve at least 25 research cruises. ATLAS will gather information on particularly vulnerable deep-sea ecologies and biologically sensitive areas in the hope of drastically improving our knowledge of the effects of man-made climate change and marine-based human activity on the Atlantic Ocean.


ATLAS Project Coordinator Professor J. Murray Roberts, from Heriot-Watt University, said in a statement that “the north Atlantic was the birthplace of deep-sea biology and the cradle of oceanography,” pointing out that “it’s the place we should know best, but it’s only over the last 20 years that we’ve uncovered just how varied and vulnerable the Atlantic’s deep-sea habitats really are.”

Not only will conventional deep-sea surveying techniques be deployed, but environmental DNA sequencing will also be used to try and identify previously unknown species that are almost certainly lurking in the deep, dark Atlantic waters.

Apart from enhancing our scientific knowledge of an incredibly important oceanic basin – and a massive carbon sink, too – the program will hope to improve the so-called “ocean literacy” of European citizens: ATLAS will coordinate its expeditions with comprehensive outreach activities, which will include a traveling road show and several interactive exhibitions, in an attempt to better educate the continent on the importance and vulnerability of their nearest ocean.


  • tag
  • biodiversity,

  • Atlantic Ocean,

  • exploration,

  • deep sea,

  • eu,

  • ATLAS,

  • Horizon,

  • project