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Research Publications/Chronology


Prepared by Emma L. Hickerson, Marissa Nuttall,
John Embesi, and Ryan Eckert
January 2012


The purpose of this document is to report the activities of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) research team during Fiscal Year 2011 (FY11).


The FGBNMS research team was involved in 17 research and response cruises in the 2011 field season. 

A pool of 43 sanctuary personnel, scientists, and reciprocity divers conducted approximately 674 scuba dives and 72 technical scuba dives. Activities included monitoring, biological surveys, sample collection, whale shark tagging, lionfish removal, response activities related to Deepwater Horizon oil spill, equipment maintenance, image collection, and installation of moorings and monitoring perimeter and corner pins.

In addition, 12 cruises were supported by the R/V MANTA with partner organizations.  Four sanctuary permits and four amendments were processed, and an additional five are ongoing.

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R/V MANTA traveled 10,355 nautical miles during the 2011 missions, exceeding the number of miles traveled in all previous years combined. 

A water level view of a boat floating on the ocean. You can see both above and below the water line.
A diver's eye view of the R/V MANTA. Photo: FGBNMS/Eckert

Significant improvement was made to the long-term monitoring study site at East Flower Garden Bank.  Corner posts were re-surveyed and installed, along with 16 guide pins along the boundaries and crosshairs.  The repetitive photostations were mapped in using the new corner posts and guide pins. 

The research team tagged a whale shark at West Flower Garden Bank – the first whale shark to be tagged in the sanctuary! 

Whale shark
A whale shark was tagged at West Flower Garden Bank. Photo: FGBNMS/Eckert

2011 marked the arrival of the invasive Pacific lionfish, Pterois sp.  FGBNMS staff developed an informational Powerpoint presentation to share with the public, educators, dive clubs, etc.  The first lionfish documented at West Flower Garden Bank was collected and is being kept at the sanctuary offices as a science interpretation tool.   Sighting markers were developed and provided to the recreational charter operators to enable recreational divers to mark lionfish locations.  Dive operators were also permitted to remove lionfish from sanctuary waters.

The research team was instrumental in collaborating with marine artist/educator and FGBNMS advisory council member, Jacqui Stanley, in creating and implementing a sanctuary mural for Ocean Discovery Day.

Painted mural of a coral reef scene
Completed mural painted by visitors to the 2011 Ocean Discovery Day event in Galveston. Photo: FGBNMS/Drinnen

The research team, in conjunction with education staff, kept the Facebook® page up to date with interesting posts after each cruise and event.  The FGBNMS page ended the year with 2260 friends.


Cruises on board the R/V MANTA were crewed by Blue Star Marine. 

Click here to see the full 2011 Research Cruise Summary.

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The R/V MANTA was chartered by several different user groups during the 2011 research season.  Texas A&M at Galveston (TAMUG) had a reduced day rate of $2500/day.  Other charters were charged approximately $5000/day.  Some charters were charged an additional fuel cost, based on fuel use.

Click here to see the 2011 Additional Cruise Summary.


  1. Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response
  2. Permitting
  3. Scheduling of R/V MANTA
  4. Coordination of SCUBA operations, including coordination with TAMUG Scientific Diving
  5. Coordination of shipboard research equipment and activities
  6. Submission of NOAA fleet shiptime requests and needs
  7. Regional GIS support
  8. Science presence at Sanctuary Advisory Council meetings
  9. Compilation of Reel Report fishing activities.
  10. Participation in NOAA DeepSea Coral calls
  11. Participation in NOAA Coral calls
  12. Participation in development of NOAA Gulf of Mexico Digital Atlas
  13. Participation in preparation and development of materials for NASA/NEEMO mission
  14. Participation in the ONMS Dive Operations Council
  15. Participation in TAMUG Dive Safety Board

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  2. Continued development and update of NCDDC/FGBNMS mapping tool
  3. Development of Sanctuary Mural with Jacqui Stanley
  4. Development of material for Google Ocean
  5. Posting of cruises and research activities on FGBNMS Facebook® page
  6. Maintenance of lionfish and supporting material
  7. Development of material and collaboration with the Gulf Quest Museum for their Virtual ROV Dive Exhibit.
  8. Collection of images for presentations, exhibits, interpretation.
  9. Development of PowerPoint presentations for various events
  10. Web-based research reports and blogs
  11. Presentations: Patton Elementary School (Austin), Rice University (Houston)

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  1. January 10-28, 2011 NOAA Working Diver Training.  Key West, FL.  Darrell Walker and Michael Shetler
  2. March 22-24, 2011 BOEMRE Information Transfer Meeting. New Orleans, LA.  Nuttall, Hickerson
  3. May 12-14, 2011 IMCC2 Focus Meeting – NOAA Deep Coral Program.  Victoria, BC, Canada.  Hickerson
  4. May 19, 2011 Patton Elementary School, Austin, TX - Hickerson
  5. April 3, 2011 Unit Refresher Training, including O2 Refresher Training
  6. April 11-14, 2011 Hyperlite Training Embesi, Eckert, Nuttall, Weekley, Schmahl
  7. September 30, 2011 Lionfish Presentation, Rice University.  Johnston

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Driggers, W. B, E. R. Hoffmayer and E. L. Hickerson.  Validating the occurrence of Caribbean reef sharks, Carcharhinus perezi (Poey), (Chondrichthyes: Carcharhiniformes) in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with a key for sharks of the family Carcharhinidae inhabiting the region.  Zootaxa. In press. 

Goodbody-Gringley, G., R. M. Woollacott, and G. Giribet. 2011. Population structure and connectivity in the Atlantic scleractinian coral Montastraea cavernosa (Linnaeus, 1767).  Marine Ecology (2011)1-17

Levesque, Juan C. Commercial fisheries in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico:  possible implications for conservation management at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. ICES Journal of Marine Science, doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsr155.

Submitted two abstracts for 2011 BOEMRE Information Transfer Meeting

  1. Long-Term Monitoring at the East and West Flower Garden Banks, 2009-2010.  Nuttall, Schmahl, Hickerson, Embesi, Eckert
  2. Draft Management Plan–Sanctuary Expansion Proposal.  Hickerson, Schmahl

Submitted two abstracts for 2012 International Coral Reef Symposium being held in July, 2012 in Cairns, Australia

  1. Science-based design of coral protected areas in the Gulf of Mexico
  2. Flower Garden Banks–A Refuge in the Gulf of Mexico


  • Submitted proposal to NOAA’s Deep Coral Program entitled: Antipatharian Distribution and Suitability Mapping in the Mesophotic Zone of the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico ($39K)
  • Submitted proposal to BOEM for Refurbishment of East and West FGB LTM sites ($79,100)
  • Received $46,664 from BOEM to conduct Potentially Sensitive Biological Features project
  • Partner with the Environmental Cooperative Science Center (ECSC) at Florida A&M University (FAMU), TAMU-CC, Delaware State, Jackson State, UT-Brownsville, Creighton University, and three National Estuarine Research Reserves, Gulf of Mexico Alliance, and Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing Systems, in a $15M Gulf of Mexico grant from NOAA to train new generation of scientists


July 21, 2011 – First report of invasive Pacific lionfish (Pterois sp.)

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  • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)
  • Cooperative Institute of Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology (CIOERT)
  • Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI)
  • Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON)
  • National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS)
  • National Coastal Data Development Center (NCDDC)
  • National Geographic Society (NGS), Mission Blue
  • Navy Research Laboratory, Stennis Space Center
  • 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 (UT)
  • Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)

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

R/V MANTA crew:

  1. Captain Darrell Walker
  2. First Mate Michael Shetler


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

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Download a copy of the 2011 Research Report (76kb pdf)

Access other sanctuary Research Reports.

If you have any questions about the sanctuary's 2011 research activities or the 2011 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