Figure 1. Map of project area showing Pulley Ridge, off the west coast of Florida at depths of 200-330 feet in relation to the downstream reefs of the Dry Tortugas and Florida Keys. Colors represent water depth, which ranges from 33 feet (red) to depths of 820 feet or greater (dark blue). Current arrows depict prevalent current direction. Background image is from Google Earth and the depth information is from the U.S. Geological Survey and NOAA. Click image for credit and larger view.
R/V F.G. Walton Smith: August 13-27, 2013
M/V Spree: August 19-29, 2013
This is the second year of a five year study to investigate the role that the mesophotic reefs of Pulley Ridge (off the southwest coast of Florida) may play in replenishing key fish species, such as grouper and snapper, and other organisms in the downstream reefs of the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas (Figure 1). Mesophotic reefs are coral reef environments found at depths ranging from 30-40 m to greater than 100 m in the Gulf of Mexico where sufficient light enables certain reef-building corals (i.e. corals with symbiotic algae growing in them) to survive. Mesophotic reefs support a diversity of populations of algae, sponges, corals, other invertebrates and fishes.
Figure 2. The R/V F.G. Walton Smith, owned and operated by the University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (RSMAS), is one of two vessels that we will be using during this expedition. Click image for credit and larger view.
In August 2013, we will be conducting our second year of fieldwork, using two separate vessels, the R/V F.G. Walton Smith (owned and operated by the University of Miami/RSMAS) from August 13-27 (Figure 2) and the M/V Spree (a charter dive vessel operated out of Key West, FL) from August 19-29. A total of 13 scientists and technicians will be on the Walton Smith and nine scientific divers and technicians will be on the Spree. Each vessel will address a different facet of the project.
On the Walton Smith, the science team will focus on:
Figure 3. A larval squirrelfish of the Family Holocentridae. Larval fish are sampled using plankton nets or light traps. Click image for credit and larger view.
On the Spree, the science divers will be focused on collecting specimens of target taxa for population genetic analyses in the laboratory. We will make these collections in areas identified by the ROV surveys on the Walton Smith as supporting higher than average densities of the target species. All specimens will be used for genetic studies, and age and growth information for the fish species.