Marine Institute researcher leads Galápagos deep-sea discoveries
Friday, October 27, 2023

A Schmidt Ocean Institute expedition led by the Marine Institute’s Dr. Katleen Robert discovered two pristine, cold-water coral reefs in the waters surrounding the Galápagos Islands. Learn more in the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s media release detailing the discoveries.Katleen Robert Vector

The expedition team spent 30 days on board the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falcor (too) examining underwater cliff ecosystems using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) SuBastian capable of diving to 4,500 metres.

“We are thrilled our mapping data are able to improve our understanding of reef ecosystems in the Galápagos,” said Dr. Robert. “The interdisciplinary science team is excited that the data collected during this expedition will contribute to growing knowledge on the Galápagos National Marine Reserve and contribute to the management of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor.”

Dr. Robert is a Canada Research Chair in Ocean Mapping and a researcher in seafloor and habitat mapping with MI’s School of Ocean Technology. She leads the 4D Oceans Lab, where a team of graduate students create high-resolution maps.

Two members of the lab – PhD candidates Emmeline Broad and Ana-Belén Yánez Suárez – also participated in the vertical reefs project.

Cocos Island projectSIO Yellow and Pink

As well, the scientists explored areas within the Cocos Island National Marine Reserve, a protected area managed by Costa Rica. This exploration was led by Ms. Yánez Suárez, who is also a National Geographic Explorer.

They examined links between coral communities on seamounts in the Galápagos and those in Costa Rica. This research contributes data to inform the management of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor, an international marine reserve jointly managed by the governments of Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia.

International teamBelen Yanez Mission Control

The expedition included 24 participating scientists representing 13 organizations and universities including the Galápagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), the Ecuadorian Navy’s Oceanographic and Antarctic Institute (INOCAR), National Geographic Society, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), University of Bristol, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), The University of Costa Rica, the National Oceanography Centre, Institut de Ciencies del Mar, and the University of East Anglia.

Schmidt Ocean Institute was established in 2009 by Eric and Wendy Schmidt to catalyze the discoveries needed to understand our ocean, sustain life, and ensure the health of our planet through the pursuit of impactful scientific research and intelligent observation, technological advancement, open sharing of information, and public engagement, all at the highest levels of international excellence. For more information, visit