Project Title: Small Project: Geodatabase of past deep-sea explorations and marine managed areas
Project Summary

LeadDan Dorfman, Jake Howell, Andrew Shuler

This project created a web-accessible GIS geodatabase (linked here) that includes information from previous deep-sea explorations in the Southeast Region, including (1) submersible/ROV dives, (2) mapping surveys, (3) museum collections of deep-sea corals and sponges, (4) deep-sea coral habitat suitability models, and (5) boundaries of marine managed areas. This geodatabase was also used to document the research efforts  conducted by SEDCI throughout the greater Southeastern US region. The digital atlas places the SEDCI initiative within the context of past research. Additionally, the geodatabase shows areas which need to be sampled, surveyed and mapped in the future.

The geodatabase can be found at

Anticipated Management Application(s)  None Defined
  • Caribbean
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • Southeast U.S. coast
Point of Contact: Office of the Point of Contact:
Project Title: Small Project: Geodatabase of past deep-sea explorations and marine managed areas

Parts of the information compiled into the unified GIS geodatabase are available from several sources that are described below. Relevant information was downloaded from each of these sources and incorporated into a unified GIS geodatabase. Once the GIS geodatabase was assembled, it was uploaded onto a web service for wide distribution. The bulk of the workload for this project was performed by the project collaborators under the guidance of the project PIs. Approaches for each dataset are briefly described below.

ROV/submersible dives We created an Excel table that contains the following fields for each past ROV/submersible dive in the Southeast Region: (1) ROV/submersible name, (2) dive number, (3) date, (4) start latitude, (5) start longitude, (6) maximum depth, (7) locality, (8) chief scientist name. For this purpose, we reviewed cruise reports of previous deep-sea expeditions that included ROV or manned submersibles dives in the Southeast Region (e.g., Partyka et al. 2007, Ross 2009, Sedberry & David 2010, Ross & Brooke 2010, Reed et al. 2011, Reed et al. 2011b), as well as dive site lists available for the HOV Alvin, the ROV Mohawk and ROV Phantom, the ROV Kraken, and other deep-water vehicles through the OER Digital Atlas and other sources. ROV dive site locations conducted in and around the Flower Garden Banks are available through their interactive map. Additionally, we contacted scientists that have previously worked in the region (e.g., John Reed, Andy David, Emma Hickerson, Steve Ross, Sandra Brooke, Eric Cordes, Andrea Quattrini) to update our inventory of ROV and submersible dive site locations in the Southeast Region.

Mapping data (side-scan and bathymetry) A large portion of previous mapping surveys in the South Atlantic and Caribbean have already been synthesized by NCCOS. Mapping data syntheses for the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, as well as the proposed expansion areas, are available through the Flower Garden Banks interactive map. Additional bathymetry data from the region is available for download from the NCEI Bathymetry Database and the OER Digital Atlas. Multibeam bathymetry data and side-scan sonar data from the Southeast Region was downloaded from these sources. Each one of these datasets was merged into a separate GeoTIFF file in order to reduce the file sizes.

Undersea feature names Place names and point locations for banks, mounds, basins and canyons are well established for the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Resources include GEBCO Place Names, Texas A&M University, FGBNMS online GIS, GulfBase and NOAA Data Catalog. Unnamed West Florida geological features detected in multibeam data since 2000 Topographic features on West Florida Shelf (presumably Lophelia mounds) were derived from multibeam data collected by the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and David Naar (University of South Florida), and these point features were classified based on relief and topographic position index. The features can be named, or coded, and enumerated, explored and characterized. The shapefile is available from a study aboard the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer in 2014 with Stephanie Farrington, and Peter Etnoyer.

National Database of Deep-Sea Corals Many deep-sea coral specimen collections and submersible observations are already available through NOAA’s National Database of Deep-Sea Corals. For this purpose, corals were defined as cnidarians within the Classes Anthozoa and Hydrozoa, family Stylasteridae.

Undocumented museum specimens We created an Excel table that contains the following fields for each deep-sea coral or sponge specimen that is archived in museum collections: (1) museum name, (2) specimen number, (3) species identification, (4) collection date, (5) latitude, (6) longitude, (7) depth, (8) locality, and (9) collector. Additionally, we queried the online invertebrate collections at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution), the Florida Museum of Natural History, the California Academy of Sciences, the Yale Peabody Museum, and the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology in order to retrieve records of deep-sea (>50 m) corals and sponge specimens contained within these collections. Furthermore, we compiled all deep- sea coral and sponge records housed at the Marine Invertebrate Museum at the University of Miami. Those collections are not yet digitized, but might become searchable in the future pending funding requests by the museum. Once the Excel table was populated with the museum collection of all of these museums, it was imported into ArcGIS.

Deep-sea coral habitat suitability models Deep-sea coral habitat suitability maps were created for both the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico as part of a previous initiative funded by the DSCRTP. These datasets were downloaded and converted into a GeoTIFF file that shows areas of high, medium and low deep- sea coral habitat suitability.

Marine managed areas (and proposed expansion areas) GIS data on marine managed areas in the Southeast Region were downloaded from the NOAA MPA Center. The data structure of that file was used to add established marine managed areas from other sources including the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the Caribbean Fishery Management Council. The latter represents a link to a set of coordinates that had to be converted into a polygon. Additionally, we added  the new Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPC) for the Gulf of Mexico, which are available through the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, and the new expansion areas of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. The latter link contains a set of coordinates that was converted into polygons of the proposed sanctuary expansion areas.

Project Results and Management Outcomes
Project Title: Small Project: Geodatabase of past deep-sea explorations and marine managed areas
Internal References:
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