Project Title: Small Project: Data mining deep-sea coral records from ROV missions to the FGBNMS
Project Summary

Lead: Raven Blakeway and Emma Hickerson

NOAA’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary has been investigating the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico since 2001 and possesses an extensive record on mesophotic coral ecosystems that exist in the region. Environmental data and geo-referenced photos of benthic habitat and biology existing from previous investigations, as well as investigations in 2017 and 2018 were used to generate habitat characterizations maps, as well as predictive habitat models in the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico. While a significant amount of data has been generated, there continues to be expansive areas that remain unmapped and lack ground truthing evidence. The SEDCI cruises helped fill in some of these data gaps following DSCRTP protocols.

The underwater features for which habitat characterization maps were generated include the following banks: Horseshoe, MacNeil, Rankin, 28 Fathom, Bright, Geyer, Elvers, McGrail, Sonnier, Bouma, Bryant, Rezak, Sidner, Alderdice and Parker.

The primary objectives for this project included to (1) conduct habitat data analysis of historic photo transects collected at the sites listed above, (2) conduct analysis on imagery collected in planned 2017/2018 cruises according to the FGBNMS habitat scheme, (3) generate habitat maps that accurately represent the environments found on the seafloor features of interest using a habitat suitability model, and (4) input density and species data into the DSCRTP data portal.

Anticipated Management Application(s)  None Defined
  • Flower Garden Banks
Point of Contact: Office of the Point of Contact:
Project Title: Small Project: Data mining deep-sea coral records from ROV missions to the FGBNMS

Existing and planned (2017-2018) geo-referenced data and photographs were analyzed for biological zone, major habitat, and biology and classified according to the current FGBNMS habitat schema. Habitat data was then correlated to the geospatial characteristics of their locations. These characteristics included: (1) longitude, (2) depth, (3) standard deviation of depth, (4) slope, (5) standard deviation of slope, (6) slope difference from the mean, (7) aspect variation, and (8) depth range within 20 m2. Additionally, mixed modeling was applied to the ground truthing survey data to develop predictive habitat suitability maps.

DSCRTP protocols were followed during the 2016/2017/2018 cruises:

  • 3-5 ROV transects at each dive location
  • 5 minute transects @ 0.9 km/h, at ~1 m altitude, ~100 m in length
  • Collect 15-20 images during each dive, documenting major taxa, with reference lasers at the base of colonies within the frame of view to measure colony size
  • Conduct colony counts and confirm species identification on transect video (post processing) 
  • Conduct fish counts on transect video (real time annotation data utilized).
Project Results and Management Outcomes  None Defined

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