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Seafloor Characterization of the U.S. Caribbean

Biogeography Branch, Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science

NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program

podcast iconSeafloor Characterization of the U.S. Caribbean (Making Waves podcast, 3.23.09)

podcast iconThe Value of Coral Reefs (Diving Deeper podcast, 2.24.10)

Images from the 2010 cruise:

a view of the coast

A derelict fishing trap on the seafloor.

A barrel sponge

A hammerhead shark swims just above the reefs.

A great star coral seen in the waters south west of St. Thomas.

Boulder brain coral captured off the south west coast of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

deploying ROV.

Lance Horn and Glenn Taylor (University of North Carolina) closely inspect the remotely operated vehicle after it is retrieved.

Tim Battista (NOAA), Sam Tormey (NOAA) and ship crew member Gordon Pringle as they set out on the launch to capture underwater video in shallow areas using a drop camera system.

Bryan Costa (NOAA) views live footage collected by the ROV and notes the biological cover on the seafloor.

2010 Caribbean Research Cruise Underway

Scientists Continue Multi-year Study of Underwater Habitats, Marine Life


What does it look like down there? Sit back and enjoy this video journey, featuring beautiful seafloor data visualizations collected with high-tech NOAA imaging equipment and HD footage of sea life captured by the University of the Virgin Islands' Center for Marine and Environmental Studies. The U.S. Caribbean is home to sensitive coral reef habitats and marine life that need to be carefully managed and protected. But in order to manage these natural resources, we need to learn more about the seafloor and the creatures that live there.

For the seventh year in a row, NOAA researchers are exploring underwater realms of the U.S. Caribbean aboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster. Many of the areas visited during this expedition have never before been studied or mapped.

From March 18 – April 6, researchers from NOAA's Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment Biogeography Branch will examine high-priority areas off the southern coasts of St. Thomas, St. John, and eastern portions of Puerto Rico. The data collected during the expedition will be used to paint a clearer picture of the U.S. Virgin Islands underwater habitats and the marine life they support—critical to resource managers charged with protecting these fragile ecosystems.

This year, researchers will deploy a new, state-of-the-art seafloor imager (similar to ultrasound equipment) and a remotely operated vehicle. Scientists will identify key gathering and spawning sites for ecologically and economically important marine species, and use mapping data collected to update NOAA's nautical charts.

The mission also includes two days in port at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, where the group will host education and outreach events for local students, fishermen, and partners.

NOAA is undertaking this ongoing, multi-year mapping effort at the request of the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council, the National Park Service, and the University of the Virgin Islands.