Lophelia II 2012 Expedition: Mission Logs

Mission Summary
Mission Summary
In a little over a week at sea, we visited four deepwater oil and gas production platforms and one subsea installation, surveying these manmade structures for coral coverage and collected high-quality imagery and video, coral samples for genetic work, and water and sediment samples for related ecological studies.

July 22 Log
July 22: Change in Perspective
Let me open with a somewhat shocking statement – I never aspired to be a marine biologist. To me, it was a field far removed from anything a kid growing up in suburban Philadelphia could pursue...

July 21 Log
July 21: Mud, Mud, Everywhere…
Most of the Gulf seafloor is covered with mud, and while this mud may appear devoid of life, it represents a highly diverse ecosystem thriving with tiny, unseen critters...

July 20 Log
July 20: A First Date: Radiometric Dating
Accurate dating of Lophelia pertusa skeletons is important to understand two very important life history characteristics of this deep-sea coral: growth rate and age. During this cruise, I am collecting coral branches from Lophelia on oil and gas platforms to use for radiocarbon dating...

July 19 Log
July 19: Environmental Niche Models – A New Way to Find Cold-water Corals
One of the issues facing deep-sea scientists is simply how – and where – to find our research subjects. The bottom of the seafloor covers an enormous area, and it’s just not feasible to search all of it. To narrow down the area we have to search, scientists can use environmental niche models.

July 18 Log
July 18: Color Me Excited!
Lophelia is known to occur in two colors, white and orange. In eight years of doing Lophelia research in the Gulf of Mexico, I’ve only ever seen white colonies. While imaging the Joliet platform on Tuesday, we saw what may possibly be two orange colonies among the many white ones!

July 17 Log
July 17: Back at Sea
One of the exciting aspects of this expedition is that biological communities on deep platforms have never been studied before. Although the industry operators see the underwater portions of their platforms regularly, the first science-related observation of Lophelia on a platform was made in 2003 as part of a broader study of deepwater communities for biomedical potentials.

July 16 Log
July 16: Grow in Culture, Maybe?
Corals have microbes (bacteria, archaea, fungi, protists, and viruses) in their external mucus, tissue, and skeleton. During the Lophelia II project, I have been sampling the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa in the Gulf of Mexico, trying to answer the questions “who are its microbes?” and “what are they doing?”

July 15 Log
July 15: First Impressions at Sea
Now that we were finally making our transit to the first platform, seeing flying fish and even some sharks along the way, everyone was in a better mood. The day seemed to go by quickly after a fire drill and equipment prep for the dive later that evening.

July 13 Log
July 13: Blame It On the Rain
The original plan for the Lophelia II 2012 expedition was to leave Freeport, Texas, on Thursday afternoon. As of Friday afternoon, the R/V Brooks McCall remained moored to the dock. It’s now Saturday evening and we are just getting underway. The delay? We can blame it on the rain.

For previous years coverage of the Lophelia expeditions, visit:



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