IIS '02 Underwater Oases
Research Expedition

Lisa Hollen
Project Oceanica
College of Charleston

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All photos credited to Project Oceanica unless noted otherwise

In late July Dr. Leslie Sautter and I had the opportunity to join Chief Scientist Dr. George Sedberry from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources in Islands in the Stream 2002. The purpose of this NOAA Ocean Exploration expedition was to explore high-relief areas along the continental shelf edge and upper slope along the eastern coast of Florida to North Carolina within an area known as the South Atlantic Bight. It was my first research expedition as a new graduate student and it was an extraordinary experience. We spent 10 days aboard Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute’s Research Vessel the Seward Johnson (Fig. 1). During this time we had the incredible opportunity to examine bottom habitats with the use of Harbor Branch’s Johnson-Sea-Link II submersible (Fig. 2). The submersible enabled us to collect video and photographic images of shelf-edge reef habitats as well as samples of sediment, rocks, and marine organisms. At each site we visited, we deployed instruments from the deck of the ship to collect plankton and bottom sediments,
and to measure the conductivity (to determine salinity), temperature and density of the seawater. I participated in all sample collection, and learned how to process samples once they were brought aboard. We used two different types of net tows to collect plankton, the Bongo (Fig. 3) and Neuston (Fig. 4) nets. Their mesh sizes are different so several size fractions of plankton can be collected. We even caught a seahorse (Fig. 5) in the Bongo net, which we placed in the shipboard aquarium. To collect bottom sediments we used a Young grab (Fig 6). The material collected will be analyzed for chemical contaminants, organic matter, and the type of sediment (e.g., percentage of sand,silt and clay).