Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
2017 Gray's Reef Research Cruise Photos
Mission Information
 

Gray's Reef Research
Expeditions 2017

Monday: June 12, 2017
Log Day 4

Aria Remondi
Gray's Reef Deputy Superintendent for Operations (Detail)
Savannah, GA

Kim Roberson, Chief Scientist, swimming towards the first site of the day.

Kim Roberson, Chief Scientist, swimming towards the first site of the day.
(Photo: Marybeth Head, NOAA)

Today I was able to go out on the largest small boat, NF4. As a non-diver, I was topside support for the dive teams. That means helping them back into the boat when their dive is over, recording the dives, and pulling up the marker buoy. Because I was topside with the coxswains running our boat while all the divers were underwater, I learned a lot about their jobs as crew aboard the ship. Coxswains are the members of the crew that drive the small boats.

Nick, the coxswain on one of the small boats, drove one of the dive teams to multiple sites today.

Nick, the coxswain on one of the small boats, drove one of the dive teams to multiple sites today.
(Photo: Marybeth Head, NOAA)

There are roughly three groups of people on the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster, though there is some overlap between them. The groups are officers, crew, and science team. We in the science team are short timers. This Gray's Reef group is on for two weeks, and many other science groups are on for the other legs throughout the year. NOAA Corps Officers are on for longer, typically they are on assignment to a specific ship for two years, and they have a shore assignment (aka on land) for three years, and then they go back to a ship again for two years. This may be the same ship or it may be a different one. Generally the officers drive the ship from the bridge, oversee all operations, and communicate with NOAA offices on land as needed.

This batfish was hiding in amongst invertebrates that a diver was counting.

This batfish was hiding in amongst invertebrates that a diver was counting.
(Photo: Alicia Reigel, LSU)

The crew however works on the ship like a normal job. If, or when, they wish to change ships they have to apply for an open position on another ship. The result is they are often the group that has the most experience with a ship. NOAA employs crew members as wage mariners and they keep the 16 NOAA ships running. Our boat today had a different coxswain driving in the morning and at night. Both had worked on NOAA ships for over 10 years. And that means 10 years where the majority of their days are spent at sea, and on a ship. They cook the meals, run the technology on board, run the engine, and facilitate all dive operations. The crew lifts the boats with the crane, launches them off the side, drives them, and makes sure we successfully can conduct our science.

The NOAA Ship Nancy Foster's crew is very friendly and professional. They know many of our scientists from previous years and know how to operate safely with divers. Basically the crew does all it takes to keep a floating city running smoothly, and makes sure our research gets done.

Invertebrates and a Damselfish in Gray's Reef.

Invertebrates and a Damselfish in Gray's Reef.
(Photo: Marybeth Head, NOAA)

Thanks to their excellent driving today, and with the luck of good weather and visibility, all dive teams had a fully successful day of research underwater. Eleven divers did 48 dives to count and identify fish, count corals and sponges, and take photos of the cool creatures they saw. I was on a boat with scientists on the "benthic team" and the "invertebrate team". Benthic refers to bottom dwelling fish, animals, and plants. Divers with that team are counting and categorizing the fish at certain sites. Invertebrates are creatures like sponges, mollusks, crabs, and coral. That team was using quadrats to count and identify invertebrates in the same site.

Gorgonian, a soft coral in Gray's Reef..

Gorgonian, a soft coral in Gray's Reef.
(Photo: Marybeth Head, NOAA)

Invertebrates are spineless organisms that live on hard surfaces. Gray's Reef is full of them! And we are glad for it because they are very important to the ecosystem in the sanctuary. The fish in Gray's Reef depend on the invertebrates for habitat and food. Invertebrates like sponges and mussels are water filters, gaining nutrients from the water and cleaning the water at the same time. For many fish species, coral provide a secure place for eggs and baby fish to hatch and live hidden from predators.

One thing the scientists out here are looking for is whether Hurricane Matthew, October 2016, affected the habitat in Gray's Reef. Early signs are that the Hurricane did hurt the habitat, but we are only two days into dive operations. Scientists will continue to look for signs of damage throughout this cruise.


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