From August 14 – September 1, the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration (GFOE) and its partners will be exploring the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS). This three-week expedition will use GFOE’s Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Yogi and our satellite capability to explore the biodiversity and connectivity processes of mesophotic coral reefs, while bringing it live to the world through the internet. Mesophotic coral reefs are found between 130 and 490 feet where there is little sunlight. Recreational SCUBA divers can only go to 130 feet, so these corals are difficult to study without special equipment.
For the first time, GFOE will enable the National Marine Sanctuaries’ Research Vessel Manta to have a capability for “telepresence,” which streams ROV video live through the internet, showcasing FGBNMS to the public and other scientists as the dives are taking place. Watch the dives live on our homepage!
Leg 1: August 14 – 18
Leg 1 of the cruise will focus on coral connectivity, biodiversity and connectivity processes that drive coral reef community structure, function, and persistence in the northwest Gulf of Mexico. For this leg, dives are scheduled from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm Central Time each day, except for August 18, when the dive will end at noon.
Leg 2: August 21-25
Leg 2 will see the first time mesophotic coral spawning will be observed from start to end in the FGBNMS. Gamete exchange across depths will also be studied. Researchers estimate that most corals will spawn the night of August 22. We will do several other night dives during this cruise leg to watch for early and late spawning activity. The schedule, which is subject to change depending on what we are seeing, is:
Aug 21 – Dive 1: 8:00 am to 1:00 pm; Dive 2: 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Aug 22 – 4:00 pm to 1:00 am
Aug 23 – 4:00 pm to 1:00 am
Aug 24 – 4:00 pm to 1:00 am
Aug 25 – 9:00 am to noon
Leg 3: August 28 – September 1
Leg 3 focuses on black corals. We will be exploring banks outside of the sanctuary but within the proposed sanctuary expansion site. In addition to searching for new species of black coral, we will be characterizing the microbiome (the bacterial community that lives on them) of known species. For this leg, dives are scheduled from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm Central Time each day, except for September 1 when the dive will end at noon.