Sea Technology

SEP 2012

The industry's recognized authority for design, engineering and application of equipment and services in the global ocean community

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Glider Observations Support Plankton Population Characterization Spray Gliders Perform Water-Column Measurements On Mesophotic Reef Ecosystems at the West Florida Shelf Spray Gliders return from rendezvous point off Naples, Florida. By Dr. Fraser Dalgleish Director Ocean Visibility and Optics Lab John Reed Senior Research Scientist and Research Professor Robertson Coral Reef Program Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Florida Atlantic University Fort Pierce, Florida and Dr. Tamara Frank Associate Professor Nova Southeastern University Dania Beach, Florida S ampling and persistent monitoring of under- sea habitats provide baseline information and important data characterizing change re- lated to events (e.g., oil spills) and phenomena (e.g., climate change), which informs scientific discovery and aids efforts to better understand and perhaps mitigate change. Autonomous glider technology has improved researchers' ability to con- duct both types of assessment: Rapid site characterization enables cost-effective identification of areas that warrant more detailed assessment, and deployments lasting several months provide previously unavailable temporal and spatial breadth that can reveal trends and illustrate change. Over the past two years, work conducted by the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology, headquartered at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, has been shaped by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Florida Shelf Edge Ex- ploration (FLOSEE) expedition was launched in July 2010, three months after the spill, to explore and assess mesophotic and shelf-edge reefs, which were deemed at risk via the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current and the Florida Current. Expedition goals included characterizing spill impacts on the ecosystems or, in the absence of such evidence, establishing baselines in advance of potential impacts, as the flow of oil from the well had not been contained when the expedition commenced. In September 2011, a follow-up expedition, FLOSEE II, was launched to locate and characterize deep reefs, with a focus on coral and commercial fish. It assessed the effective- The Spray Glider dives at Pulley Ridge. ness of marine managed areas for restoring coral and fish, monitored the effects of oil contamination and characterized plankton populations above or near reefs. Mapping and biodiversity assessments were conducted from the NOAA vessel Nancy Foster using multibeam sonar and the University of Connecticut's Kraken II ROV for high- definition video surveys and MOCNESS (Multiple Opening and Closing Net Environmental Sensing System) trawls. To perform water-column measurements, the Harbor Branch Ocean Visibility and Optics Lab at Florida Atlantic Univer- sity deployed Bluefin Robotics Corp.'s (Quincy, Massachu- setts) Spray Glider. Spray Glider and Pulley Ridge Missions The Spray Glider, which is rated to 1,500 meters and trav- els at 25 centimeters per second, is capable of deployments www.sea-technology.com SEPTEMBER 2012 / st 39

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