Deep Sea Asphalt and Methane Seeps
Here is a video (also found here on YouTube) about an ecosystem hosted on underwater oil deposits. It goes well with this video (a similar video on YouTube can be found here) that describes methane seeping out of the ocean crust. Here is a video on YouTube that describes methane hydrates on and below the seafloor. All three can be discussed in terms of energy resources and the ways in which microbes use organic compounds in the deep biosphere.
Suggestions for discussion prompts (and student worksheets):
1. What is underwater asphalt?
2. What does underwater asphalt look like? Does it look similar to anything you find on land?
3. Could the asphalt be used as an energy source for us humans? If so, how? How would we go about harvesting it?
4. What kinds of microbes do you think live on the asphalt? (Do you think any of these microbes could be amongst them?) What do you think they are doing?
5. What are methane seeps?
6. How do you think we got methane (the same gas that cows emit after eating their lunch) on the seafloor?
7. Do you think the microbes living in the seafloor have anything to do with the methane? Or maybe the consumption of methane?
8. How is it that methane is a solid at the seafloor where we usually think of it as a gas here at the surface?
9. If methane is such a good energy source, why aren’t we using the methane hydrates we find at the seafloor? Are there logistical issues? Ecological issues? Political issues? Is it economic to mine methane hydrates with the current technology? How could we mine it efficiently?