Benthic Ecology

The term "benthic" comes from the Greek for "depths of the sea," and refers to the seafloor and bottom-dwelling organisms.

The Benthic Ecology Laboratory at VIMS is directed by Professor Robert Diaz. Dr. Diaz and colleagues at VIMS examine the processes that govern the biodiversity, structure, and function of seabed ecosystems and the recruitment, growth, and production of bottom-dwelling organisms. They study the role of benthic communities in the production, fate, and transfer of organic matter, major elements, and sediments; and investigate predator-prey interactions and the role of the benthic community in supporting upper trophic levels.

Current Projects
  • WormCam—View real-time, cross-sectional images of the seafloor from this pair of underwater cameras in the York River. Learn about the important role that burrowing animals play in mixing seafloor sediments, and the physical forces that control erosion, deposition, and transport of seafloor sediments and contaminants. Also view our time-lapse movies.
  • PlowingProfile Camera—This camera, which is mounted on a plow-like device and towed behind a research vessel, allows VIMS scientists to collect a contiguous series of cross-sectional images of the boundary between the water column and the underlying sediments.
  • Polychaete Key for Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Virginia—This taxonomic key is designed to help identify polychaete species in Chesapeake Bay and coastal Virginia. Polychaetes are a class of annelid worms that serve as food for other organisms and play a key role in mixing sediments.
Past Projects
  • Benthic Imaging Sled developed and deployed  to map benthic habitats by real-time acquisition of underwater photographs, video, and water quality data, and to ground-truth sidescan sonar records.
  • York River Oxygen Investigations and Data
  • Time-LapseSPI (Sediment Profile Imagery) in the York and Ware Rivers, VA
  • Benthic Habitat Maps and Biological Resources offshore Virginia 1996 and 1997(in relation to sandmining)