Project Title: 2016 R/V Manta expedition to proposed expansion areas of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
Project Summary

DFH-30: September 4-8, 2016   Chief Scientist: Emma Hickerson

1. to continue documenting the biological communities on Parker, Bryant, Bouma, Rezak, Sidner, and Elvers banks - all of which are under review for the proposed boundary expansion of the FGBNMS.

2. to analyze the benthic habitat in the areas of interest by conducting transects using a forward-facing still camera and video camera mounted to the ROV to capture high resolution imagery and video, following DSCRTP protocols.

3. to collect samples of mesophotic black corals and octocorals for analysis by researchers from CUNY and UTRGV, respectively.

Anticipated Management Application(s)

NOAA’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is engaged in a sanctuary expansion proposal to protect additional critical habitat in the Gulf of Mexico. The sanctuary currently encompasses only three among dozens of reefs and banks scattered along the continental shelf in the Northwestern Gulf. The banks surveyed during this expedition contain critical ecosystems made up of nationally and ecologically significant features and biological communities. Survey sites were selected to support proposed boundaries and address concerns expressed by stakeholders.

  • Flower Garden Banks
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Project Title: 2016 R/V Manta expedition to proposed expansion areas of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

On September 4-8, 2016 the SEDCI supported a five-day expedition aboard the R/V Manta. Led by Emma Hickerson, the expedition surveyed banks in the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico using the ROV Mohawk operated by the UNCW-UVP. Funds provided by the SEDCI paid for five days of ship time of the R/V Manta, which leveraged five days of ROV operations at no additional cost to the project. During the expedition, 28 ROV dives were completed to depths between 61-192 m. These dives targeted seven different banks around FGBNMS (Parker, Bryant, Bouma, Rezak, Sidner, Tressler and Elvers) and focused on collecting information to characterize the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico, including sites within proposed expansion of the FGBNMS (ONMS 2016). Over 2,800 still images were collected, which will be processed by Travis Sterne (FGBNMS) to quantify the benthic fauna on the banks. Additionally, 16 black corals and two octocoral samples were collected during the expedition. Mercer Brugler at the City University of New York (CUNY) will process the black coral samples for taxonomic and phylogenetic analyses in collaboration with Dennis Opresko at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. David Hicks at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) will process the octocoral samples for genetic analyses.

Project Results and Management Outcomes  None Defined

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