In early April, members of the Benthic Resources Group (FRD) participated in a one-week collaborative research cruise aboard the NOAA Ship PISCES to investigate deep-water rocky reefs and associated sponges, corals, fishes and invertebrates off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina.
The Group collected vast amounts of underwater video and high-resolution still photographs using their remotely operated vehicle (or ROV). Several of these photos are being used to describe a new species of fishes, while others are being used to improve the description of species of fishes and invertebrates that are rarely observed in the wild. Several rocks collected during one dive are being analyzed by geologists to better understand the origin of numerous deep ‘scars’ in the seafloor that are hypothesized to be the result of icebergs running aground on the outer Continental Shelf. The Group also demonstrated the ability to conduct precise transect surveys in deepwater environments by utilizing the dynamic-positioning capabilities of NOAA’s new FRV-class research vessels. This capacity is critical for conducting quantitative assessments of benthic marine resources using visual survey techniques.
In collaboration with the IT Staff at the SWFSC (Cosgrove, Holland, and Vu), a collection of these photos and ‘virtual tours’ simulating the individual ROV transects were made available to the public via Google Earth. To view these photos and ‘fly-along’ with the researchers, click on any of the Virtual Tours on this page: http://swfsc.noaa.gov/PiscesDeepcoralCruise2010/
Additional information about the cruise mission and blogs from the scientists can be found here: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/missions/2010coral_east/welcome.html