Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
2018 Gray's Reef Research Cruise Photos
Mission Information
 

Gray's Reef Research
Expeditions 2018

Tuesday: August 7, 2018
Log Day 8

Peter Auster
Research Professor Emeritus of Marine Sciences,
    University of Connecticut, Groton, CT
Senior Research Scientist, Mystic Aquarium, Mystic, CT

Peter Auster (l) and Jeff Godfrey (r) prepare for a dive to survey predator diversity and behavior.

Peter Auster (l) and Jeff Godfrey (r) prepare for a dive to survey predator diversity and behavior.
(Photo: Jennifer Wozniak, UCONN)

This is my tenth year coming to Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary to study how groups of fish predators interact with their prey. Multiple predators hunting in groups, composed of the same and different species, can enhance predation success that can then increase their growth and reproductive success. For example, midwater predators such as Spanish mackerel and barracuda attack schools of prey fish from above, chasing them to live-bottom reefs, where seafloor predators such as black sea bass and red snapper take advantage of the confused prey to attack from the bottom.

A VR camera on the seafloor along the edge of a live-bottom reef.

A VR camera on the seafloor along the edge of a live-bottom reef.
(Photo: Peter Auster, UCONN, Mystic Aquarium)

How all these species recognize cues to join the hunt, and how the results of such behaviors effect population and community dynamics, advances our understanding of the fundamental ecology of these communities and how the hidden links between elements of biodiversity operate. Understanding the scope and limits of multiple predator groups can aid in assessing the ecological health of the Sanctuary and other marine ecosystems.

This year we are assessing the utility of new video camera technologies to collect data in the absence of divers. Compact underwater virtual reality cameras with 360-degree field of view record images from a full sphere, and record the suite of species interactions between predators and prey.

UGA graduate student Colby Peffer dives to retrieve VR cameras from the seafloor.

UGA graduate student Colby Peffer dives to retrieve VR cameras from the seafloor.
(Photo: Peter Auster, UCONN, Mystic Aquarium)

Today we set pairs of cameras at three different reefs to record video remotely for about 1.5 hours, then returned to conduct our standard diver surveys of predator-prey composition and behavior. Our results from earlier on this expedition appear to demonstrate that our diver surveys do well at quantifying the scope of species interactions. However, the virtual reality cameras add to this by providing the video to estimate rates of interactions and how these vary over space and time.

These results will ultimately aid in the development of computer models to predict how such behavioral interactions can influence the population status of multiple predator species. Conserving such important interactions within sanctuary and fisheries management regimes is one of the principle goals of ecosystem-based management

Support for this project was provided by a grant from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

A school of grunts over a live-bottom reef.

A school of grunts over a live-bottom reef.                    

The school of grunts fleeing predators attacking from the left.

The school of grunts fleeing predators attacking from the left.

Almaco jacks & Spanish mackerel attacked & trail school of grunts.

Almaco jacks and Spanish mackerel attacked and trail school of grunts.

Click screenshots above from the VR camera video for a larger view. (Photo: Peter Auster, UCONN, Mystic Aquarium)


Home

Nautical Terms

Participants

NOAA Logo

leaving site Indicates a link leaves the web site; Please view our Link Disclaimer for more information | Privacy Policy | Contact Us
Revised by Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary Webmaster | User Survey
National Marine Sanctuaries | National Ocean Service | National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration | U S Dept of Commerce
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service