Home LATEST NEWS Researcher accidentally finds kelp forests near Galapagos Islands

Researcher accidentally finds kelp forests near Galapagos Islands


They are found in particular off Alaska, Patagonia, and British Columbia.

It’s like running into a polar bear in Barbados.

A quote from Salomé Buglass, PhD student, Institute of Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia

The researcher, Salomé Buglass, decided to embark on a doctorate at the University of British Columbia to better understand how this organism survives in a tropical climate, and what this could mean for ecosystems and climate change.

Tropical kelp species were previously found near the Galapagos Islands, but the 1983 El Niño sea heatwave almost wiped them out of the region.

Salome Buglass with Kelp Specimens

Salomé Buglass holds kelp collected in the Galapagos Islands.

Photo: Charles Darwin Foundation

Find kelp by searching for coral

Salomé Buglass stumbled upon the forests when she was examining, using a remote-controlled submarine robot, seamounts in order to study coral reefs located 40 meters deep. This is the limit for conventional scuba diving, a place where light penetrates much less than near the surface.

She was very surprised to discover kelp forests there, the leaves of which are 1 meter long and which survive from photosynthesis.

The Defender remote-controlled underwater robot from VideoRay

The Defender remote-controlled submarine robot, which the company VideoRay lent to Salomé Buglass free of charge for his research

Photo: Joshua Vela / Charles Darwin Foundation

That moment was the best feeling in the world. It seemed that the expedition was going very badly until then! said the researcher, laughing.

For Ms Buglass, the discovery shows how much one does not understand what exists deep in the sea, even in a place like the Galapagos, which has already been combed through by scientists. I believe we probably don’t even know 2% of what might exist in the ocean, she says.

Like trees in a forest

Mrs Buglass’ discovery suggests that the species is surviving much better than previously thought, and that it has taken refuge in deep, colder waters, which may give hope for other species of cold water from the Galapagos, which is mostly endangered. Kelp are like trees in a forest. They create the habitat where other species live, eat, and hide, she says.

Shallow kelp forests also possibly have special resilience against climate change.

As the planet warms, it is essential to identify habitats that can serve as safe havens for biodiversity. These areas need to be protected so that there is resilience and recovery in the event that a catastrophic event does occur.

A quote from Salome Buglass
Salomé Buglass and her team in the Galapagos Islands

Salomé Buglass and members of her team, piloting a remote-controlled submarine robot.

Photo: Charles Darwin Foundation

Build a reputation

Salomé Buglass, who had never imagined herself as a scientist when she was young, was delighted to receive a call from one of her idols, famous oceanographer Sylvia Earle, after she made her discovery.

She said to me, “You have to do a doctorate.” I said I wasn’t sure. And she said to me, “We need more women who look like you, who do this kind of work.”

Deep-sea exploration is generally limited to well-heeled, predominantly white, western countries. explains Salomé Buglass, who has Trinidadian origins. She said to me, “You have to do this, and not just for yourselves, but for all the people who are like you.”

Salomé Buglass and Sylvia Earle

Salome Buglass and Dr. Sylvia Earle in a submarine observing kelp forests. Due to the depth of the water blocking some rays of light, everything looks blue.

Photo: Charles Darwin Foundation

Salomé Buglass is raising the last funds needed to finance her next research trip in the summer of 2022, with the help of a fundraising campaign. In addition to returning to the depths with the help of robots, she plans to interview local fishermen.

They are the real oceanographers, but without a diploma. They are precious like gold. They spend their lives navigating these waters, and a lot of things are on their hooks.

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