The team will survey predicted deep-sea coral communities, including canyon, slope, and basin areas, with concurrent sampling of environmental factors (i.e., depth, salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen) to characterize benthic (bottom) habitats and identify areas of coral presence. The mission includes collecting deep corals for taxonomic, reproduction, and age analyses, and conducting multibeam mapping in areas where data are missing or incomplete. Dr. Shea will participate in data acquisition, image annotation and web coordination, with a particular interest in finding cephalopods tucked in, under, around, and on the corals and sponges.
ROPOS and the FSV Bigelow doing a practice deployment and retrieval while tied up at the dock at Naval Station Newport. Image courtesy of Northern Neighbors: Transboundary Exploration of Deepwater Communities.
Using the ROV ROPOS as the primary sampling gear, the team will spend approximately two days in each canyon, with the remaining time split between four locations in the northern Gulf of Maine. During each 12-hour deployment, ROPOS will take high-definition video and still images of the seafloor and collect coral samples, other invertebrates, and sediment cores.
When ROPOS is on board the ship to download data and recharge batteries, the team will conduct a variety of other ship-based operations to study these habitats in more detail. First, the ship’s multibeam system will map the seafloor in regions where data are missing or incomplete. By filling in these “holes,” the team aims to complete a high-quality image of the seafloor topography. These maps will be important for mission planning, not only for this cruise, but also for future missions in the region.
In addition, they will provide research opportunities for students, educators, and professional researchers and share findings and at-sea experiences through outreach activities, including the Ask an Explorer page on the NOAA website.