The photograph in the upper left corner shows a marine anemone Actinauge rugosa. This picture is taken at water depths of approximately 200 meters on Scotian Shelf (Eastern Canada). This is just one of many species of marine animals rarely seen by people who are not involved in marine biology research. Most of the Ocean life is largely unknown to general public, and we, marine ecologists, are priveleged to study it. For many of us our work is our hobby. We enjoy the sense of discovery, and envy the participants of Challenger expedition who discovered thousands on new species. But don't dispair - there is plenty more in the marine environment to be discovered.

Until recent our knowledge of the sea bed was mostly fragmentary and was constructed from snapshots scattered through space and time. These were bottom grab and trawl samples taken by different research gropus with different scientific objectives and for different purposes, and less often - photo and video observations. The perception of the seabed obtained from these snapshots is not comparable to the appreciation of the diversity of terrestrial life and land forms that is gained from a walk in the forest or from a low altitude flight over land.

Most of the theoretical and experimental work in marine ecology had been carried in easily accessible intertidal or shallow subtidal zones, while most of the ecological studies of the deep Ocean seafloor remained descriptive. Despite the lack of complete understanding of deep-water ecosystems, it has become more and more apparent that human society has an impact on the seabed through increasing fishing, mining and hydrocarbon exploration efforts. These adverse impacts are the most profound on the continental shelves and water depths generally less than 300 m. We are facing a task of balancing resource exploitation and preservation of living and non-living resources of the seabed. This objective is difficult to achieve without a complete depiction of the seabed and with a lack of understanding of ecological processes operating there. Thus, compared with terrestrial land management, where decision making is supported by satellite and aerophoto imagery and is founded on a long history of ecological studies, seabed managers are facing two major problems - technology gap and theory gap.

Through the last decade great advances had been made in acoustic mapping of the seafloor using high-resolution multibeam sonars, which yield georeferenced, three dimensional depiction of seabed morphology. Analysis of the acoustic signal obtained from multibeam sonar also allows deducing sediment properties, and, when used in conjunction with other geophysical instruments and augmented by geological sampling, the technology allows producing highly accurate maps of seabed morphology and texture. These novel depictions of the seabed lead to advancement of our understanding of the seafloor structure and dynamics and stimulate new theories and hypothesis. Benthic ecology in particular highly benefits from the implementation of these technologies.

Theoretical gap in our understanding of seabed ecosystems is based on the disparity of research needs and interests of different science groups studying the Oceans. Until recent the knowledge had not been assimilated or summarised in an ecologically sound framework and had not been presented in a manner helpful to seabed managers and decision makers.

On this site I discuss Ocean mapping, present a selection of my publication on this and other topics, and hope that this will be interesting to other fans of marine ecology.