Coral Ecosystem Connectivity 2015: From Pulley Ridge to the Florida Keys: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Mission Logs

Follow along as participants in the cruise provide updates and reflections on their experiences, the science, the technology, and other elements of the expedition.

  • Mission Summary

    September 22, 2015  |  By M. Dennis Hanisak

    Mission Summary

    We successfully concluded our fourth and final field season to investigate the role that the mesophotic coral ecosystems of Pulley Ridge (off the southwest coast of Florida) may play in replenishing key fish species, such as grouper and snapper, and other organisms in the downstream reefs of the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas.

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  • Are Coral Populations at Pulley Ridge Expanding?

    September 2, 2015  |  By M. Dennis Hanisak

    Are Coral Populations at Pulley Ridge Expanding?

    New information from this expedition suggests that Agaricia coral populations are resilient, able to rebound from a decline fairly quickly. That is good news not only for corals and related biological resources at Pulley Ridge, but also for other coral reef systems in Florida and the Caribbean. If local environmental stressors can be reduced or eliminated, there is reason to believe that the downward trajectory of coral reefs can be reversed elsewhere, too. If biologically and physically connected to other systems such as the Florida Keys, Pulley Ridge may be serve as a refuge and be able to contribute to the recovery of other coral reefs.

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  • A Good Day at Sea

    September 1, 2015  |  By Brian Cousin

    A Good Day at Sea

    The first day of September brought us some of the best weather we have had out here. The Mohawk remotely operated vehicle made two dives on Pulley Ridge and returned each time with good samples for our taxonomic identifications. We are unable to identify many of the organisms out here at sea, so they will go under the microscope or be subject to genetic evaluation in shore-based labs when we return.

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  • Sponges, Sand and a Storm

    August 31, 2015  |  By Brian Cousin

    Sponges, Sand and a Storm

    We dove at three separate sites on Pulley Ridge to document the benthic habitat and collect samples for taxonomic identification. Pulley Ridge has a diversity of bottom characteristics and we were treated to two dramatically different types. During the morning remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive (covering two sites), we discovered the bottom was rich in sponge species. On our afternoon ROV dive (covering one site), the ROV camera returned images of a more sparsely populated sandy bottom.

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  • Erika and Rebecca

    August 30, 2015  |  By Brian Cousin

    Erika and Rebecca

    After stopping operations on Pulley Ridge yesterday to evade the remnants of Tropical Storm Erika, we made our way to the shallows of Rebecca Shoal to ride out whatever may come.

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  • A Challenging Day

    August 29, 2015  |  By M. Dennis Hanisak

    A Challenging Day

    Today, we retraced a transect from 34 years ago, done by Continental Shelves Associates (CSA) on April 25, 1981. The CSA transect was a challenge for us to do on a single remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dive, being 2.4 kilometers long and shaped like a large C, with three segments each 800 meters long. Its orientation relative to the prevailing current and wind challenged our ROV pilot Lance Horne and Ship Captain Shawn Lake. Several times we had to stop and reposition before continuing along the transect. It was our longest dive of the cruise at four hours. But we were successful because of the teamwork of the ROV team and ship’s crew. Once we analyze these data, we will be able to evaluate how this site has changed, if at all, over more than 30 years; there are very few such comparisons in mesophotic reefs that can be made.

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  • Mooring Recovery

    August 28, 2015  |  By M. Dennis Hanisak

    Mooring Recovery

    The excellent work of the crew of the R/V Walton Smith was instrumental in today’s successful recovery of the Physical Oceanography mooring.

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  • Mississippi River Plume

    August 27, 2015  |  By Brian Cousin

    Mississippi River Plume

    During our remotely operated vehicle dives yesterday, we encountered dark water, with a salinity of only 32 parts per thousand (ppt). Normally, seawater has a salinity of 35-36 ppt. Upon further investigation, we noticed that this layer of lower salinity ran nearly 25 meters (82 feet) deep. This caused us to raise our eyebrows given our location in the open ocean, far from Florida Bay and other coastal waters.

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  • Looking Out for the Little Ones

    August 26, 2015  |  By Brian Cousin

    Looking Out for the Little Ones

    For this mission log, we’re focusing in on some of the smaller fish of Pulley Ridge.

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  • The Mohawk ROV

    August 25, 2015  |  By Jason White

    The Mohawk ROV

    This year the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) team (UNCW’s Undersea Vehicles Program) brought along a new piece of equipment with them: the sample collection skid. The collection skid attaches to the bottom of the ROV, making the ROV 14 inches taller. This piece of equipment allows the ROV to collect samples..

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  • My First Cruise

    August 24, 2015  |  By Jana Ash

    My First Cruise

    Two days before the Research Vessel Walton Smith set sail for the final cruise to Pulley Ridge, I found out that I would be aboard.

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  • Revisiting Transects Past

    August 23, 2015  |  By John Reed

    Revisiting Transects Past

    The first dive we are conducting on this final cruise is to revisit a dive site from the project’s first year in 2012. Today, we plan to repeat the exact dive transect and see if things have changed.

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  • Saturday at Sea and a Trip Downtown

    August 22, 2015  |  By Brian Cousin

    Saturday at Sea and a Trip Downtown

    It’s hard to believe we’re heading out on the final voyage in the Coral Reef Connectivity study, four years after the first cruise in the summer of 2012.

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