Funded Programmes

Areas of Research

Biology, ecology and dynamics of the ocean
Deep sea research
development and adaptation of benthic Lander technology
microbial ecology
pelagic-benthic coupling studies
physical and chemical processes of the oceans
productivity of marine ecosystems





The island of Crete, at the crossroads of four seas, has an ideal location from which to conduct research into the the Aegean, Ionian and Libyan Seas and the Levantine Basin. The main current research goal of the Oceanography Department of the IMBC is to investigate the structure and function of oligotrophic pelagic ecosystems. This has stemmed from work carried out under the MAST II "Pelagic Benthic Coupling in the Cretan Sea" (CINCS) which was carried out within the framework of the Mediterranean Targeted Programme (MTP). One of the major goals of the CINCS project was to record the diversity of environments and animal life in the Aegean Sea, down to a depth of 1500m.

To carry out this type of work, heavy deep sea equipment is required and so highly specialised deepsea sampling devices are used, including the Bathysnap camera system, the Benthic Oxygen Lander System (BOLAS) and the manned submersible JAGO (operational depth 400m), which is equipped with two video systems and a still camera in addition to its two-man crew.

Research on deep water quantitative seafloor observational studies is carried out with a custom-built video sled, on which is mounted an Osprey colour CCD camera. This technique provides a unique opportunity to observe and record seafloor characteristics and is therefore capable of giving invaluable information that cannot be collected through conventional remote sampling techniques.

Studies have also been carried out on biological production in certain areas of the Aegean Sea, as well as on hydrothermal fluxes in which gas emission samples and flow rate measurements in the hydrothermal vent areas around Milos island were taken (MAST I and II).

Physical oceanographic investigations are carried out around Crete. Water column structure is investigated by means of a Seabird CTD which, by measuring conductivity, temperature, pressure and dissolved oxygen, provides information on the thermocline, pycnocline and the distribution of the water masses.The resultant hydrological profiles, in conjunction with biogeochemical measurements (nutrients, organic carbon and chlorophyll) help to enhance our understanding of the marine ecosystem.

The department has several teams which operate independently to carry out specific research programmes, but also work in close collaboration with other IMBC departments and scientists in multi-disciplinary projects.

Its main current EU-funded projects (MAST II and III) deal with the biogeochemistry of the Aegean Sea. It is also gradually moving into the field of benthic lander technology by using the deep basins adjacent to Crete which are suitable as testing sites. It also participates in international projects to study the E. Mediterranean and the N. Atlantic.


The types of sampling gear used are:

  • Seabird CTD,
  • Niskin water bottles
  • Plankton nets
  • Bowers & Connolly multicorer (adapted)
  • UNSEL boxcorers (0.25 and 0.1m2)
  • Grabs (McIntyre and Van Veen),
  • Trawls (Agassiz and Otter)
  • Benthic lander
  • A custom-built video sled with an Osprey colour CCD camera with 2 kW of lighting
  • 2 Nikonos 35 mm underwater still cameras
  • 2 camcorders (Hi-8, VHS-C) with customised underwater housing, and lighting system
  • Benthos Mk II MiniRover (depth capability of 300m)

More specialised equipment can be called on when needed:

  • Manned submersible JAGO,
  • BOLAS benthic Lander to measure sediment community O2 consumption
  • BATHYSNAP camera,
  • RoxANN bottom classification sonar

Video data from these platforms can be edited at the IMBC BETACAM Edit Suite.

Laboratory facilities

There are three laboratories available to carry out the work of the department:

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