NOAA Ship PISCES Deep-coral Cruise (8-14 April 2010)

The NOAA Ship PISCES will host scientists from Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA Fisheries Service, Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, the University of Alabama, and the College of Charleston on a seven-day cruise to explore deep-sea corals. The cruise begins on April 8 and continues through April 14. Students and teachers and the general public are invited to follow the cruise through daily logs that will be posted to this site . Questions may be submitted to the scientists who will answer them nightly and post them the next day to this website. You can also follow the scientists along their journey using the interactive map below (Google Earth Browser plug-in required).  Click on the red balloon to see a recent photo from the cruise.

The cruise will investigate deepwater rocky reefs and associated sponges and corals off the coast of Georgia. These corals build up complex high-relief mounds in deep water (350-900 m) and consist of living, dead and fossil corals and coral rubble that provide important habitat and feeding grounds for a diversity of marine life including wreckfish, golden crab and royal red shrimp. Fishing gear used to catch wreckfish and trap the crabs and shrimp impacts the bottom and likely damages these fragile corals. This study will help researchers better determine the ages and growth rates of corals and better understand the reef structures that they build and their rates of recovery if damaged. Mapping of the bottom and coral distribution with sonar and ROV will help managers determine where fishing can be conducted with minimum impact on corals.

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