From September 12 to September 30, 2011, members of NURTEC’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations team collaborated with the Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology (CIOERT) and partner scientists aboard the NOAA vessel Nancy Foster to conduct an undersea exploration of Florida’s deepwater coral ecosystems. The objectives of this expedition were to survey these shelf-edge habitats and assess abundance and diversity of reef fishes, corals, and other associated invertebrates. While some areas were revisited from previous years, the team also explored new sites along Pulley Ridge and Pourtalѐs Terrace.
The science party utilized an array of ocean technologies including CTD, MOCNESS, multi-beam sonar to identify potential hard-bottom targets of mesophotic coral reefs and NURTEC’s ROV, Kraken2, to ground-truth these areas of interest with high definition video, digital still photography, and sample collection. For the mission, Kraken2 was equipped with an array of custom designed sampling systems including a HD video camera, four additional SD cameras for a variety of viewpoints, a down-looking digital still camera for conduction quantitative photo transects, forward and down-looking paired lasers for sizing objects, a six function manipulator with cutting claw for sample collection, suction sampling tube and eight bucket array, auto-indexing quiver array for biota collection.
Over the course of sixteen scheduled dive days, a total of 26 dives were conducted ranging in depth from less than 200 meters to 850 meters water depth. The opportune weather conditions, cooperative effort of science, ship and ROV team, and performance of Kraken2 ROV produced hundreds of hours of undersea video, thousands of digital photos, and wide array of biological specimens collected for taxonomy, genetic sampling, and medical research. In summary, the research cruise was a success and the resulting data/scientific insight will help assess the efficacy of establishing marine protected areas and understanding coral/fish associations.
For more information about the FLOSEE II Expedition, please visit FLOSEE II: Exploring and Mapping Shelf Frontiers off South Florida.