Whether it's the study of coral growth, research on loggerhead sea turtles or the long term monitoring of fish populations, science conducted in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary is intended to help make informed management decisions to ensure adequate protection of sanctuary resources.
The science staff of Gray's Reef actively encourages scientists and students to engage in research and monitoring efforts to aid in our understanding of this unique marine ecosystem. Work here can be challenging due to sea conditions and visibility, however the rewards are worth the time spent interacting with this incredibly diverse environment. Budget constraints, rarely allow Gray's Reef to directly fund research efforts but we do offer facilitated research opportunities which often includes diving and boat support. Much of the science conducted in the sanctuary will require a permit and consultation with the Science Coordinator.
If you are interested in science conducted in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, you are encouraged to learn more about the researchers who have worked here and the publications that have been produced. Because of the volume of work resulting from science conducted in and around the sanctuary, Gray's Reef has been dubbed the "most intensively studied patch of "live-bottom" reef anywhere in the South Atlantic Bight" (the area between Cape Lookout, NC and Cape Canaveral, FL) yet many mysteries remain.
Since the flora and fauna of this area were first described in the early 1960's by the sanctuary's namesake, Milton "Sam" Gray, researchers have been attracted to this unique and diverse environment.
The reefs of the sanctuary are located at a crossroads of convergent currents which, depending on the season, bathe the area with a varying supply of marine larvae. Gulf Stream filaments bring sub-tropical species to our waters from farther south and some species find their way via the colder Western Boundary Undercurrent from farther north. The larvae which ultimately settle onto the carbonate-cemented sandstone reefs and sand expanses will endure challenging environmental conditions throughout their lifetimes; survival of the organisms is largely dependent on their physical tolerance of ocean temperatures which range from 55-86 degrees Fahrenheit and violent undersea "sandstorms" associated with high wind and seas which scour the ledges every winter. These constantly changing conditions contribute to an incredible diversity of marine life which can be found nowhere else than the reefs of the South Atlantic Bight .