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Take a tour of mission leader Fabien Cousteau’s underwater lab

July 5, 2014 at 3:31 PM EST
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JOHN LARSON: Now, a visit to one of the world’s only underwater labs, where six scientists recently spent a month off Key Largo in Florida studying the effects of climate change on coral reefs.

Hari Sreenivasan spoke to the mission leader, Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau.

FABIEN COUSTEAU: Welcome to the bottom of the sea. We’re at 63 feet in depth. Why are we doing this? Simply because it gives us the luxury of time.

We’re able to go into this final frontier on our living planet to explore unadulterated and unlimited by time. Which is not something one can say when diving down from a boat.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Tell us a little bit about what it is that you’re doing when you’re out there six-eight hours a day.

FABIEN COUSTEAU: Well, we have a wet lab which you have in that photo right there and also a dry lab inside the habitat, what we’re looking are issues with climate change or more specifically related to climate change and acidification levels as well as pollution. So we’re looking at the baseline of the underwater cities that basically dictates everything that lives in and around these coral cities.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Okay, is there anything cool that you’ve seen since you’ve been down there, speaking of the abyss- probably not new life.

FABIEN COUSTEAU: Lot- yeah, and right now is the slow period, almost middle of the day, so they’re actually resting, and tucked away in nooks and crannies, in the morning and nights you see a lot of activity, as a matter of fact there’s a lot of activity below the habitat, the habitat itself has become a coral reef.

Its just amazing, we’ve seen so much new behavior that I’ve never seen before.

Fish sleeping in sponges, a goliath grouper attacking a barracuda, never seen that before, I don’t think anyone has ever caught it on film before. Christmas tree worms, spawning and giving off this milky smoke like stuff off.

I mean it’s just science fiction, it’s really amazing down here. And that’s why we’re down here, my grandfather used to say, in order to film a fish you must become a fish. So we’re trying to get as close as we can to becoming fish.

Watch the full interview with Fabien Cousteau here.