Concentration of Elements
Extreme environments tell scientists about the limits of life's adaptability, often highlighting the factors that are required to sustain life. A most unusual ecosystem is the global system of undersea volcanic ridges that define where the Earth's lithospheric plates are spreading apart. In the late 1970s scientists were amazed to discover ecosystems thriving thousands of meters beneath sea level in the absence of sunlight. These ecosystems occur around deep sea hydrothermal vents like those seen here. This beautiful active sulfide structure is located on the Juan de Fuca Ridge. Study of deep sea hydrothermal vent sites and the black smoker structures themselves will help scientists to understand how life originated on our planet and possibly on other planets.
The boulders collected on the expeditions below tell stories of where life exists on Earth with a focus on life in extreme environments. Additional expeditions collected boulders of ores that tell the story of how the elements concentrated in these ores came to be in the Earth's crust.