Scientists monitor the status and condition of marine life and habitats to detect trends within the sanctuaries. Numerous efforts have been undertaken in
Gray's Reef to understand the condition of resources in the sanctuary and how they may be changing over time. Examples of such efforts are described below.
Marine Debris Monitoring Program
Gray's Reef is a popular site for recreational fishing and boating, causing concern about the accumulation of debris related to these activities. Managers
are interested in understanding the potential effects of marine debris on sanctuary resources. Knowing the types, abundance, and distribution of debris is
essential to improving debris removal and education efforts. Approximately two-thirds of all observed debris items found during the field surveys were
fishing gear, and about half of the fishing related debris was monofilament fishing line. Debris was concentrated in the center of the sanctuary and was most
frequently associated with ledges rather than at other bottom types.
Water Quality Monitoring
The past few decades have shown increases in contamination and eutrophication in coastal waterways but relatively little is known about offshore levels of
contamination. Offshore areas like Gray's Reef have been presumed to be pristine given their distance from contaminant sources. Scientists at Gray's Reef
and Dr. Marc Frischer of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography
have teamed together to monitor the water quality at Gray's Reef. Researchers conduct routine sampling in GRNMS, both at the surface and bottom of the water
column. These samples are then analyzed in a lab to determine what contaminants may be present at Gray's Reef. So far results have shown the contaminants
and bacterial levels are within a range that scientists can still consider Gray's Reef pristine. The monitoring continues in the sanctuary to determine if
and when any change may occur.
Reef Enviromental Education Foundation (REEF)
REEF is a volunteer-based organization of divers and marine enthusiasts that are dedicated to ocean awareness, education and conservation. REEF engages
volunteer divers in efforts to collect information about fish abundance and distribution. REEF volunteers have conducted fish surveys in and around Gray's
Reef for many years, providing the sanctuary with valuable information on fish populations. For more information about REEF, click here to visit their website.
Measuring pCO2 at the surface and bottom of the water column at Gray's Reef
Dr. Scott Noakes, a research scientist at the University of
Georgia, is participating in an international CO2 monitoring program by measuring the
pCO2 at the sediment-water interface at Gray's Reef. He is comparing this data to the pCO2 at
the water surface, which is being measured
by NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory's sensor on the Gray's Reef data buoy. Dr. Noakes is trying to
determine when differences in pCO2 levels
occur between the surface and bottom waters, as well as long term trends of pCO2 in the water.
For an update on Dr. Noakes CO2 research click here.
Weather Buoy Data
The NOAA National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) maintains a network of data buoys and coastal stations along the entire US coast and various locations
internationally. At the NDBC website, data from these various buoys is available for download by the general public. One of these buoys is located inside of
Gray's Reef NMS. Data available from this buoy includes sea surface conditions such as wind speed and direction, wave height, dominant wave period, average
wave period, air temperature, water temperature and atmospheric pressure. To check weather and sea conditions in and near the sanctuary visit the Gray's Reef Data Buoy site, or for
a larger picture visit the National Data Buoy Center .
Please visit the Publications section of our site to learn more about research that has been conducted in
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.