Connectivity of Coral Ecosystems (CYCLE) in the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico

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

    By Santiago Herrera

    Oceanographic fieldwork is always challenging. It can take months to prepare for a couple of weeks at sea. Once you set sail, oceanic and atmospheric conditions can unexpectedly change, equipment breaks and repairs must be done with what you have onboard, and supplies run out and you have to exercise your creativity. This is why one of the most important things when going out on a research cruise is assembling a great team of scientists, engineers, and crew to face and overcome these challenges. The first cruise of the CYCLE project was lucky to have one of those great teams.

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  • Gone Fishing...

    By Andrew David

    Red snapper

    From May 17 to 26, if you are looking for me, I’ll be out fishing. The second cruise for this project of this field season, from May 17 to 26, will focus on collecting our two target species—red snapper and tomtate. The tomtate is a small fish that is in the middle of the food chain, whereas, the red snapper is a commercially fished species that is near the top of the food chain.

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  • Shallow Coral Reef Communities in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

    By Joshua Voss

    The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico is comprised of stunning and unique continental shelf-edge coral reef habitats. The sanctuary contains the northernmost coral reefs in the continental United States. The closest shallow coral reefs are located in the Bay of Campeche, Mexico, approximately 650 kilometers (403 miles) to the south.

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  • Using Maps to Find Suitable Habitats

    By Randy Clark

    Understanding what types of habitat a particular animal prefers (e.g., coral reefs or seagrass beds) can help scientists predict where an animal can be found. These predictions are often presented as a habitat suitability map. These maps show where an animal’s habitat might occur as a range from not suitable to highly suitable habitat.

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  • Where Do Larvae Go?

    By Annalisa Bracco

    Marine animals that live on the reefs and banks of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico have propagules that often move or disperse to other reefs and banks transported by ocean currents. In this log, learn how genetic and chemical analyses of marine animal samples collected on this expedition will be combined with models of ocean currents to better understand how the eggs, larvae, or juveniles of these animals move or are dispersed.

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  • What Lives in Coral Habitats?

    By Christopher Meyer

    Both shallow and mesophotic coral ecosystems harbor a breathtaking array of species. Unfortunately, the majority of species that live in these communities hide among the nooks and crannies, making them extremely difficult to assess, without destructively sampling these fragile habitats. Autonomous reef monitoring structures or ARMS are designed to overcome this challenge. ARMS are standardized stacked layers of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plates that mimic the structural complexity of reefs. Think of them as underwater condominiums or pre-fabricated homes that can be used as biodiversity barometers to compare one place to another or change to an ecosystem through time.

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  • Understanding Connectivity Through Chemical Analyses

    By Nancy Prouty and Amanda Demopoulos

    As the saying goes, “you are what you eat!” Luckily, this is also true for marine life in coral ecosystems. By tracking the diet of animals in and around the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, we can understand what the animals have eaten and where they have traveled to obtain their food. In turn, this information helps resource managers understand habitat use and food web connections between different marine animals.

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  • Preserving Coral Samples for Genetic Analyses

    By Matthew Galaska

    Lehigh University postdoctoral researcher, Matt Galaska, preserving coral tissue.
    NOAA contractor Janessy Frometa processes mesophotic coral samples collected at Diaphus Bank at 90-100 meters (295-328 feet) depth.

    This log discusses how the team preserves the coral samples collected with the Global Explorer remotely operated vehicle. These samples will eventually be used to look at the genetic connectivity for our target species between the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and the reefs and banks to its east.

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  • Sampling with the Global Explorer Remotely Operated Vehicle

    By Jill McDermott

    Despite being a marine chemist who studies seafloor environments, Jill McDermott has yet to use her SCUBA skills at work. Who then, is the great diver involved? The technologies with which she works. On this cruise, the team is using the remotely operated vehicle Global Explorer to sample animals, including corals and sponges, which serve as local biodiversity hotspots and habitats for other organisms within the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.

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