Photos by Paul Caiger, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Far beneath the surface of our ocean is a world of weirdly wonderful creatures who live in the ocean twilight zone, or middle depths of the ocean, where sunlight barely reaches.

The twilight zone plays a critical role in the health of our planet, yet most have never heard of it and even fewer have seen it with their own eyes. The twilight zone is home to more fish than all of the world’s fisheries combined. The creatures of the twilight zone are part of the largest animal migration on Earth—a daily journey from the depths to surface waters and back. They also play a critical role in ocean food webs and help regulate Earth’s climate by capturing carbon from the atmosphere and sequestering it in the deep ocean.

Humanity has encountered pristine ecosystems in the past and we have a near-perfect record of exploiting and altering them—often irrevocably—before we truly understand them. But we have a chance to do things differently this time. Scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and elsewhere are racing to understand, document, and raise awareness of the value of this unique ecosystem before commercial fisheries move in.

Public awareness is a special challenge in a region of the ocean that is almost completely unexplored. But WHOI has launched a new, playful campaign called “Keep It Weird” to draw attention to the ocean twilight zone. Focused on kids aged 5-12, the campaign features an educational microsite (see: twilightzone.whoi.edu) and an entertaining quiz (see: keepitweird.org) to engage families and encourage them to spread the word.

“Kids as young as 5 already understand that in society, being weird is viewed as a bad thing. We want to change that perception and show that being weird—just like the weird creatures of the ocean twilight zone—is a good thing. Weird drives innovation and creativity, and it is something to be celebrated,” says Heidi Sosik, science lead of WHOI’s OTZ project, funded by the Audacious Project at TED.

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The ocean is life, and it belongs to everyone. It gives us oxygen and food and millions of jobs. It brings joy and shapes our climate and weather. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is the world’s independent leader in ocean discovery, exploration, and education, working to understand and sustain one of humanity’s most precious common resources.

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