EAST BOOTHBAY, Maine — The National Science Foundation is awarding about $450,000 to Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences to study life below the seafloor.

Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King say the grant will help improve scientists’ understanding of microorganisms that are crucial to ocean life, but remain poorly understood.

The money will help fund a project called “Microbial Activity in the Crustal Deep Biosphere.” It seeks to give scientists better understanding of how life can survive under low-energy conditions. The senators say a team from Bigelow will take part in an expedition to the Juan de Fuca Ridge flank off the Washington state coast.

An abstract of the project on the National Science Foundation website says the trip will enable scientists to study the “paradox of how life can persist” below the seafloor.