Northern Neighbors: Transboundary Exploration of Deepwater Communities: Mission Plan

NOAA ship Henry Bigelow at sea.

NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow at sea. Image courtesy of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Download larger version (jpg, 94 KB).

June 8-22, 2017

Dr. Martha Nizinski
Zoologist
NOAA Office of Science and Technology, National Systematics Laboratory

Dr. Anna Metaxas
Professor
Dalhousie University

This map displays the operating area of the Northern Neighbors: Transboundary Exploration of Deepwater Communities expedition.

This map displays the operating area of the Northern Neighbors: Transboundary Exploration of Deepwater Communities expedition. Click image for credit and larger view.

Remotely Operated Platform for Ocean Science (ROPOS) is a remotely operated vehicle designed to carry out a wide range of scientific explorations at depths of up to 5,000 meters.

Remotely Operated Platform for Ocean Science (ROPOS) is a remotely operated vehicle designed to carry out a wide range of scientific explorations at depths down to 5,000 meters. Click image for credit and larger view.

The health of the ocean and fisheries depends on sound science and management on an international scale. Scientists from the United States and Canada share many deep-sea coral research interests, thus plans for transboundary collaborations have been in development since 2011. Under the goals of NOAA and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada for a healthy ocean, information collected on this mission would contribute specifically to an improved understanding of ecosystems to inform resource management decisions and healthy habitats that sustain resilient and thriving marine resources and communities.

Beginning on June 8, 2017, a team of scientists aboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow will spend 15 days at sea exploring canyon and slope habitats off the coast of the Northeast U.S. and Atlantic Canada, as well as study sites in the Gulf of Maine with the Canadian remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Remotely Operated Platform for Ocean Science (ROPOS). Specifically, the team will target minor canyons between Nygren and Heezen canyons (U.S.); Georges and Corsair canyons; and sites on the continental slope off Browns Bank (Canada). They will also explore a number of locations in the northern Gulf of Maine (U.S.).

With the overall goal of surveying predicted deep-sea coral communities associated with these habitats, the team will conduct a science mission with the following objectives:

  1. Survey canyon, slope, and basin areas, with concurrent sampling of environmental factors (i.e., depth, salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen) to characterize benthic (bottom) habitats and identify areas of coral presence;
  2. Ground-truth and validate habitat suitability models;
  3. Assess deep-sea coral abundance, distribution, and size;
  4. Classify coral and adjacent soft sediment habitats and document faunal affinities;
  5. Collect deep corals for taxonomic, reproduction, and age analyses;
  6. Collect deep corals and other invertebrates for genetic studies;
  7. Conduct multibeam mapping in areas where data are missing or incomplete;
  8. Provide research opportunities for students, educators, and professional researchers;
  9. Share findings and at-sea experiences through outreach activities

Using the ROV ROPOS as the primary sampling gear, the team will spend approximately two days in each canyon, with the remaining time split between four locations in the northern Gulf of Maine. During each 12-hour deployment, ROPOS will take high-definition video and still images of the seafloor and collect coral samples, other invertebrates, and sediment cores.

When ROPOS is on board the ship to download data and recharge batteries, the team will conduct a variety of other ship-based operations to study these habitats in more detail. First, the ship’s multibeam system will map the seafloor in regions where data are missing or incomplete. By filling in these “holes,” the team aims to complete a high-quality image of the seafloor topography. These maps will be important for mission planning, not only for this cruise, but also for future missions in the region.

Additionally, a CTD will be deployed to aid in the characterization of the water column. This apparatus records the depth, salinity, and temperature profile of the water column.

 

Tentative Mission Schedule:

  • Expedition Dates: June 8-22, 2017
  • June 8: Ship departs Newport, Rhode Island, en route to Nygren-Heezen canyon area
  • June 9: Arrive Nygren-Heezen canyon area; ROV operations
  • June 9-10: ROV, CTD, multibeam operations at Nygren-Heezen canyon area
  • June 11-12: ROV, CTD, multibeam operations in Georges Canyon
  • June 13-14: ROV, CTD, multibeam operations in Corsair Canyon
  • June 15-16: ROV, CTD, multibeam operations on slope off Browns Bank
  • June 17-20: ROV, CTD, multibeam operations at northern Gulf of Maine sites
  • June 20: Complete field operations and begin transit back to Rhode Island
  • June 21: Transit to Newport, Rhode Island
  • June 22: Ship arrives in Newport, Rhode Island, mission ends

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