Researchers with NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) Habitat Mapping team will conduct a scientific research mission within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary from March 19 to April 12, 2021. The team will collect data to support the conservation and management of diverse coral habitats within the sanctuary boundary. NCCOS is also collaborating with FKNMS, who will be conducting a similar mission to continue surveying this region onboard Nancy Foster from April 14 to 22, 2021.
Prior to the mission, a gap analysis was conducted using input from local, federal, and state stakeholders to determine the project area. A region north of Dry Tortugas that is approximately 330 square kilometers in size was determined as a high priority survey area by these stakeholders (Figure 1). The NOAA Ship Nancy Foster will be used to collect high-resolution multibeam seafloor bathymetry and backscatter, water column echosounder fish acoustic surveys, and seafloor habitat observations/ground-truthing using a remotely operated vehicle. These data will be used to create high resolution maps of the project area and document associated fish densities in the region.
The mapping team embarked on a similar mission in September 2020, collecting data to fill gaps in high-resolution bathymetry in the western margins of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The mission, funded by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, will be supported by partners from University of North Carolina Wilmington Undersea Vehicles Program and Solmar Hydro. The 24-day cruise will adhere to COVID-19 prevention protocols, including a pre-cruise staff quarantine and pre-cruise COVID testing. To learn more, visit the project page.