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WATER QUALITY CRUISE
There was very little benthic cover on the 60’ peak, but was quite lush benthic cover at the 80’ peak – dominated by sponges.

May 14-15, 2013
aboard R/V MANTA

The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary research team, along with volunteer divers from Texas A&M University at Galveston, completed a two-day mission to maintain water quality instruments at each bank within the sanctuary, collect water samples, and install new mooring buoys.

Participants

Marissa Nuttal and a Texas A&M student posing on the deck of R/V MANTA.
Volunteer AAUS SCUBA divers from Texas A&M University at Galveston (also known as the Sea Aggies!) worked with the sanctuary research team. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

R/V Manta crew
Sanctuary research team
Texas A&M Galveston AAUS divers

Getting Started

Nothing quite like a beautiful sunrise to get the day under way!

Sunrise at the sanctuary
Sunrise in the sanctuary. Photo: FGBNMS/Park

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Water Quality

Water quality instruments are located at the reef cap, measuring temperature and salinity, and at the deep long-term monitoring stations, measuring temperature at about 130 feet (40 meters). These instruments are maintained and downloaded on a quarterly basis.

Seabird water quality instrument attached to a computer to download data.One of the Seabird water quality instruments deployed at each bank to monitor temperature and salinity. These instruments must be brought to the surface and connected to a computer to download the data they have collected.
Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Water samples were also collected, and will be tested for common water quality parameters, including ammonia, nitrogen, phosphorous, nitrate, nitrite, and chlorophyll-a concentration.

Diver retrieving water quality equipment from a deep station at West Flower Garden Bank
A TAMUG diver collecting the temperature logger from the long-term monitoring deep station at West Flower
Garden Bank.
Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

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Moorings

New moorings were installed at all the banks, resulting in 5 buoys at East Flower Garden Bank, 3 at West Flower Garden Bank, and 3 at Stetson Bank.

U-bolt embedded in reef at West Flower Garden Bank
A large U-bolt anchors Mooring Buoy #2 at West Flower Garden Bank. U-bolts like this must occasional be replaced due to wear and tear from the shackle sliding back and forth. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Coral Collection

In addition, new long-term monitoring station installations were evaluated and coral collections conducted as part of a permitted research activity for Texas A&M University.

A square metal frame outlines the area to be photographed at a coral growth station.
Sanctuary staff installed improved markers at some of the stations where they monitor the lateral growth of certain brain coral colonies. These markers help them line up the camera so they can capture the same are in the monitoring photo each year. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

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Lionfish

Lionfish were observed at all of the banks and collected when possible. One collected lionfish measured 16-inches in length, the largest lionfish caught and reported in the sanctuary to date!

Three lionfish on one section of reef at West Flower Garden Bank
Lionfish were observed at all of the banks within the Sanctuary during this mission. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Sightings

Researchers were treated to a visit from a large pod of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins, a Tiger Shark, and many diverse fish species!

R/V MANTA deckhand Julia O'Hern was able to capture this video footage of a pod of dolphins at Stetson Bank.

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There was very little benthic cover on the 60’ peak, but was quite lush benthic cover at the 80’ peak – dominated by sponges.

weather report observations cool stuff get wet


Orange, branching gorgonian (soft coral) anchored in a bed of sponges and other sea life.
   
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