All images and excerpts below are taken from The NOAA Ocean Explorer page on the NOAA website. Please click on either image or the url: below to see the full Mission Plan found on the NOAA Ocean Explorer website.  
  In 2001, the National Marine Sanctuary Program’s "Islands in the Stream" expedition explored deep-water habitats from North Carolina to the coast of Belize. Building on this work, the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration’s "Islands in the Stream 2002: Exploring Underwater Oases" will host four scientific investigations geared toward learning more about high-relief areas along the continental shelf break and slope from the eastern coast of Florida to North Carolina – an area known as the South Atlantic Bight. These important and understudied habitats peppered throughout the region provide critically important habitat for a wide variety of marine organisms.
  The expedition will use the R/V Seward Johnson and the Johnson-Sea-Link submersible, owned and operated by the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution (HBOI), to provide researchers direct access to this rarely seen underwater world. Investigators also will use a variety of sampling techniques to complement the videotape and still images collected by the submersible. By extending their research into unknown areas, scientists and natural resource managers will have the opportunity to gather information that will be useful for developing new and innovative ideas for habitat and resource protection.
  Each project will be conducted by groups of interdisciplinary investigators led by scientists from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve, and the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution (HBOI). Read on to learn more about each of these projects.
Mission One
July 28-August 5
George R. Sedberry
Senior Marine Scientist
Marine Resources Research Institute, SCDNR

Characterization of Deep Reef Habitat, with Particular Emphasis on Discovery, Exploration and Description of Reef Fish Spawning Sites

Populations of economically valuable reef fishes have been declining for at least two decades in the South Atlantic Bight region, affecting the food chain from the top predators down to the bottom-dwelling invertebrate communities. The goal of this project is to discover and explore spawning locations of reef fishes in the area,

and to describe how underlying features and oceanographic processes interact to provide habitat for associated species.
Scientists will use a submersible to collect video and still images of the shelf-edge reefs, as well as samples of sediment, rocks, and marine organisms for further analysis. Sidescan sonar will be used to determine characteristics of bottom topography at scales larger than the submersible can explore. In addition, traditional sampling methods such as towing nets, measuring conductivity, temperature and density of water, and grabbing sediment samples using instruments deployed from the deck of the ship, will be used to help identify potential spawning habitats and to further characterize these reefs. The results will support protective management strategies to sustain the exploited fish species that utilize these spawning locations.



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