Man has already traveled hundreds of thousands of miles to the moon. But we're only beginning to scratch the surface of what exists just a few thousand feet underwater. UNCW is at the center of a multi-national effort exploring what goes on under the sea. Some researchers say there's a whole world at the bottom of the sea and understanding it can open up a world of possibilities. They date back to pre-historic times and span all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. Still, experts say not much is known about coral eco-systems. Traces coordinator Dr. Murray Roberts said, "Now these have been known for a little while, but it's only recently that people have gone out and mapped them and used submersibles to study the diversity of life that lives on those mounds." Dr. Roberts is the coordinator of Traces -- the multi-national marine research project that aims to map out these uncharted territories. For the past few months he's been working closely with UNCW professor Steve Ross to help find out what lives under the water off the Carolina coast. Dr. Ross said, "We're adding a tremendous amount of knowledge in an area where we knew almost nothing. That has benefits that we often can't predict." Ross says he's already discovered new species of fish, crabs and other marine life. He and Roberts say that exploring this new under-water world could uncover important natural resources -- or even lead to major medical breakthroughs. Ross said, "There are huge resources that are out of sight, huge resources in the marine province that we never see." Most importantly, they say knowing more about what lives within the coral will help ensure that it's preserved. We don't understand how they settle and how they grow, and we really need that information to conserve them in the future," Roberts said. "Now at a time right now of climate change, we'd better understand that past record so we can better predict what will happen in the future." Roberts says traces probably won't yield any major results for another four or five years. Roberts is from the Scottish Association of Marine Science. In addition to UNCW he's working with scientists from Canada, Europe and Brazil to compile data from coral eco-systems around the world.
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