"The [SAFMC] has led the nation in managing deepwater coral ecosystems by setting up this reserve, it is now up to scientists to show if it's working," says expedition leader Andy Shepard from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Undersea Research Center (NURC) at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.
The Oculina expedition, funded by NOAA, will run from Oct. 12-18 on board the M/V Liberty Star, a NASA space shuttle support ship operated by United Space Alliance and normally used to retrieve spent solid rocket boosters. A second related expedition is planned for May 2006. To explore the reefs, researchers will be using NURC's Phantom SII Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), an undersea robot equipped with video and still cameras and a manipulator arm for gathering samples. Team members will also be filing daily dispatches from the ship at www.at-sea.org.
One of the expedition's goals is to "ground truth," or verify, a newly produced high-resolution multibeam sonar map of the region, which offers unprecedented resolution to reveal bottom features that were previously indistinguishable. The team will explore various areas using the ROV to compare observations with what appears on the map. This will allow scientists to associate certain colors and other map features with the type of habitat they indicate, such as sand bottom, coral ledg
Source:Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution