Expedition to Study Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems off the Florida Coast

August 5, 2014

NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research is part of a major cooperative expedition to Pulley Ridge, off the southwest coast of Florida, to study how the mesophotic coral ecosystems of the Pulley Ridge connect with the downstream coral reef ecosystems of the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas. The upcoming part of the expedition is taking place on the R/V F.G. Walton Smith from Aug. 14-28, with 12 scientists and technicians. 

Mesophotic corals live in low light at depths of 100 feet or more, and Pulley Ridge is the deepest mesophotic coral reef off the U.S. continental shelf. The goal of the project is to provide information about the ecosystem to resource managers to enable the proactive development of strategies to manage and protect shallow and mesophotic coral ecosystems.

This cruise is part of the third year of a five-year partnership between many offices within NOAA, whose goal is to evaluate the processes driving these mesophotic coral communities, their connectivity, and their value as a resource. In all, the scientific team is made up of 35 scientists from 11 different academic institutions and three federal and state agencies, working with federal, state, and non-governmental stakeholders to ensure that resource manager needs are addressed. 

OER was a collaborator in the development of this project and has provided funding for ship time and some of the staff time. The project is primarily coordinated and funded by NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, part of the National Ocean Service.