Exploring Corals of the Aleutian Seas
Researchers tune in to deepsea corals
Part 1: Seafloor TV gets a good reception
By Sonya Senkowsky
NORTH PACIFIC OCEAN—From the deck of the RV Roger Revelle, you can feel the sea air in your face and hear waves crash against the ship. But the ocean researchers I was accompanying for this Aleutian cruise were not out on the deck.
They were inside, watching TV.
That was, in fact, their job. An expedition led by NOAA Fisheries researchers set out from Dutch Harbor on July 24 to explore the Aleutian Archipelago seafloor using one of the world’s deepest diving unmanned vehicles, a remotely operated vehicle called Jason II, which is equipped with collecting arms and—most importantly for this trip—video cameras.
The cruise, funded by NOAA’s Undersea Research Program, seeks to learn more about the Alaska’s deep-sea corals. The images and samples gathered will help describe the newly discovered coral resource and ultimately create a map, or model, of coral life in the region - including some regions never seen before—to help guide fishery managers charged with protecting such habitats, said Alaska Department of Fish & Game marine fisheries scientist Doug Woodby.
“To create the model, we need to gather a lot of data on the physical features of the habitat ... and it’s very valuable to be seeing that firsthand,” said Woodby.
Researchers are comparing the video to high-resolution maps of the region made over the past year, which show details of the bottom. In the wake of this cruise, scientists hope to have the information they’ll need to better “ground-truth” such maps and use them to predict where different kinds of corals are likely to thrive.
Anchorage science writer Sonya Senkowsky is the editor of Alaska Science Outreach (www.alaskascienceoutreach.com). She spent two weeks aboard the R/V Roger Revelle (July 24-Aug. 8) with a team of coral researchers; her time aboard was supported by the North Pacific Research Board and the NOAA Undersea Research Program.