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Research Publications/Chronology


Prepared by
Emma L. Hickerson
January 2011

View of the R/V Manta from the perspective of a diver at the surface of the water.
The R/V MANTA as seen by divers returning to the vessel. Photo: Hickerson/FGBNMS


The purpose of this document is to report the activities of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) Research Team during Fiscal Year 2010 (FY10).


A significant amount of resources were directed towards the response to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, which occurred April 20, 2010.

All NOAA ship time was lost due to Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response activities.

It is important to note that a significant number of research cruises were taken off the schedule due to lack of funding, and/or vessel repairs.  Primarily, only monitoring activities and oil spill response cruises were conducted.  Research related to monthly data collection, grouper spawning aggregations, and mesophotic zone investigations succumbed to budgetary constraints.

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Cruises on board the R/V MANTA beginning in 2010 were led by Captain Darrell Walker – Bluestar Marine.  The FGBNMS Research Team recognizes the crew for their enthusiasm and professionalism, and credits them and the R/V MANTA for the year’s successful cruises.  Unfortunately several major (manufacturer) engine difficulties were encountered and disrupted the cruise schedule.

Three men standng together in front of an orange sunset over the water.
The crew: Mike Shetler, Darrell Walker, Eric Larson
Photo: Embesi/FGBNMS

Click here to see the full 2010 Research Cruise Summary.

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  1. Long-Term Monitoring data processing
  2. Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response
  3. Permitting
  4. Cruise planning – R/V MANTA support
  5. Coordination of SCUBA operations
  6. Coordination of shipboard research equipment and activities
  7. NOAA fleet shiptime requests and needs
  8. Regional GIS support
  9. Science presence at SAC meetings
  10. Compilation of Reel Report fishing activities
  11. Participation in NOAA Deep Sea Coral calls
  12. Announcement and recruitment of FGBNMS Research Specialist position
  13. Integration of lionfish early warning system into oil and gas program through SERPENT program.
  14. Initiation of project:  Deepwater sponges of the Flower Garden Banks NMS. Identification of sponge samples collected in deepwater investigations using ROV – FGBNMS/Christi Savarese/Smithsonian

Outside researchers:

TAMUG researchers documented the most westerly sighting of invasive lionfish, Pterois sp., at Sonnier Bank on September 12, 2010. Texas A&M University-Galveston researcher Lynne Wetmore discovered two lionfish on Sonnier – one on each peak. Several more were removed on subsequent missions. For more information on this sighting visit

EPA researchers and Georgia Tech researcher Tonya Shearer led a research expedition on the R/V BOLD to conduct assessment of the coral reef caps of East and West Flower Garden Banks, as well as surrounding reefs and banks and oil and gas structures.  One main focus was to document and collect the invasive orange cup coral, Tubastraea sp.  Multiple colonies were collected from both East and West Flower Garden Banks, as well as other survey sites.

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Silhouette of a manta ray on a bright blue background with NOAA and sanctuary logos in the top right
The new Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Facebook page launched in November 2009 (FY10).

  1. Development and implementation of FGBNMS Facebook page
  2. Continued upgrades to NCDDC mapping tool website
  3. Development of FGBNMS video highlights DVD
  4. Discussions with research and conservation community in Holbox, Mexico, relating to future collaboration and protection of whale shark resources and populations
  5. Participation in Ocean Discovery Day
  6. Input into DEIS development for MPR
  7. Contributions to digital slide catalog/library
  8. Initiation and participation in Galveston ArtWalk
  9. Development of PowerPoint presentations for various events
  10. Submission of content for sanctuary website
  11. Presentations: Laurel Mountain Elementary School, Patton Elementary School
  12. SKYPE interviews with GirlStart, out of Austin, TX
  13. Participation in Capital Hill Oceans Week (CHOW)

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  1. February 8-11, 2010. ONMS/NMFS Regional Summit, Miami, FL. Hickerson, Schmahl.
  2. April 19-23, 2010. Research Coordinator’s Meeting, North Carolina. Hickerson.
  3. June 8-10, 2010. Capital Hill Oceans Week. Hickerson, Schmahl.
  4. June 23, 2010. Trinational Gulf of Mexico Summer Management Summit.  Corpus Christi, TX. Hickerson.
  5. August 2-5, 2010. NOAA/MATE remote sensing GIS workshop.  Monterey, CA. Nuttall.

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Submitted successful CRCP proposal, with NCCOS and CI, for baseline surveys to be conducted in preparation for a proposed research area.


Phyllangia pequegnatae Cairns, 2000
- azooxanthellate coral found at depths below 150 feet (47 meters)


Zimmer, B., L. Duncan, R.B. Aronson, K.J.P. Deslarzes, D. Deis, M. L. Robbart, W. F. Precht, L. Kaufman, B. Shank, E. Weil, J. Field, D.J. Evans, and L. Whaylen.  2010. Long-term monitoring at the East and West Flower Garden Banks, 2004-2008. Volume I:  Technical report. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, New Orleans, Louisiana.  OCS Study BOEMRE 2010-052. 310pp.

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  • Bureau Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE)
  • Cooperative Institute of Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology (CIOERT)
  • Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies
  • National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS)
  • National Coastal Data Development Center (NCDDC)
  • Smithsonian Institute
  • Texas A&M University (TAMU)
  • Texas A&M University – Galveston (TAMUG)
  • Texas A&M University  - Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC)
  • University of North Carolina – Wilmington  (UNCW)
  • University of Texas
  • Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)

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  1. Emma Hickerson, Research Coordinator
  2. G.P. Schmahl, Sanctuary Superintendent
  3. John Embesi, Research Specialist
  4. Marissa Nuttall, Research Assistant
  5. Ryan Eckert, Research Intern

R/V MANTA crew:

  1. Captain Darrell Walker
  2. First Mate Michael Shetler


  1. Kelly Drinnen
  2. Ryan Eckert
  3. John Embesi
  4. Tracy Hamburger (until July 2010)
  5. Emma Hickerson (Unit Diving Supervisor)
  6. Marissa Nuttall (as of January/February, 2011)
  7. G.P. Schmahl
  8. Michael Shetler (as of January 2011)
  9. Darrell Walker (as of January 2011)
  10. Marc Weekley (as of July 2010)

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Download a copy of the full 2010 Research Report (65kb pdf)

Access other sanctuary Research Reports.

If you have any questions about the sanctuary's 2010 research activities or the 2010 Research Report, please contact Emma Hickerson.

weather report observations cool stuff get wet

Orange, branching gorgonian (soft coral) anchored in a bed of sponges and other sea life.
National Marine Sanctuary logo - a stylized whale tail above waves