Visit the Ocean Explorer Website for further information on the project, its use by the National Marine Sanctuaries Program, information on Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems and mission logs.
Beginning August 13, NCCOS-supported researchers led by the University of Miami embark on a research expedition to investigate the role that the mesophotic (mid-depth) coral ecosystems of Pulley Ridge (off southwest Florida) may play in replenishing key fish and other coral ecosystem species in the downstream reefs of the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas. This is the second field season for this 5-year study.
The expedition is split between two vessels, the R/V F.G. Walton Smith from August 13-27 and the M/V Spree from August 19-29. The R/V Walton Smith will focus on characterizing the benthic and fish communities, collecting genetic samples of larger fish species, and characterizing planktonic fish and invertebrate larvae. The M/V Spree will focus on collecting specimens for determining population connectivity.
The results of this study will provide greater understanding of the underlying physical and ecological processes that affect Pulley Ridge. This information will in turn be used to determine the type and extent of management actions necessary to sustain coral reef communities upstream and downstream of Pulley Ridge.
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, through its Advisory Council, is currently conducting a review of sanctuary regulations, including the rules and boundaries for marine zones in the sanctuary and surrounding national wildlife refuges. As part of this review, the Sanctuary Advisory Council identified study areas that should be considered for potential inclusion within the sanctuary and where general sanctuary regulations would then apply. Pulley Ridge was identified as an area for consideration. If included as part of the sanctuary, additional management capabilities available under the authority of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act would provide further protection to Pulley Ridge from non-fishing related activities.
You can follow the scientists and their research activities by reading about the Mission and its logs posted every other day at the OER website.