Samantha Joye has been exploring the deep sea for more than 20 years. The microbiologist at the University of Georgia has seen what can happen when this hidden part of our world is not protected. In 2010, eight months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, she journeyed into the ocean’s depths.
“I was afraid of what we were going to see,” Joye told Earther.
And with good reason: Nothing on the seafloor off the Louisiana coast was alive when she got down there in her submarine. Usually, she’ll see fish everywhere, along with crabs, eels, and “all kinds of life,” she said. This time, not a single shrimp or sea cucumber. “It was the most depressing dive I’ve ever done, and I hope it stays the most depressing one,” Joye said. “I never want to do anything like that ever again.”
That’s why this marine biologist is now working with Our Blue Planet, a collaboration between BBC Earth and OceanX Media. This initiative, which is occurring alongside BBC’s now-airing Planet Earth: Blue Planet II series, aims to inspire the everyday person by connecting them to one another on social media using #OurBluePlanet, and by releasing videos like the one below, an exclusive clip featuring Joye’s voice and her work.
These behind-the-scenes shots give viewers a taste of this scientist’s world—one few get to see.
“Making people want to learn more is the first step in making them be committed to saving an ecosystem or sustaining an ecosystem,” Joye said.
And the deep sea needs saving. President Donald Trump proposed in January to open just about all federal waters to offshore drilling, the same activity that resulted in four million barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Nearly a decade after that spill, BP, the company responsible, is still paying out settlements. The impacts still aren’t totally known, but we do know that the spill led to an uptick in dolphin and sperm whale deaths, as well as the deaths of trillions of fish and invertebrates.
“[Trump’s offshore drilling plan] is a short-term economic goal with huge environmental risks,” Joye told Earther. “I just have a bad feeling about it. It seems like the more proactive thing to do is address the reality we’re going to face: a world without oil and gas.”
Joye wants to see more effort to protect the oceans. As a scientist and mother, her goal is to leave behind a better world, and she’s using her voice to ensure people know what’s at risk if we lose these habitats.
“The most critical reason for protecting the deep sea is that we don’t know what’s there,” she said. “I think of the deep sea not only as an ecological paradise but also in terms of the resources these environments could provide to humanity. It’s in our best interest to protect them and explore them—before they’re damaged and destroyed.”