Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary: Ecological Characterization
Mission Plan for September 8-15, 2007, Expedition
Overall Project Goal: Provide information about the types, numbers, and distribution of reef-dwelling fish within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. This information is critical to resource managers who are making decisions about the future of the sanctuary resources.
Overall Project Objectives:
- Develop and refine sampling methods to investigate fish populations of the East and West Flower Garden Banks. One method will be developed for the coral caps (those portions of the East and West Flower Garden Banks that are accessible using SCUBA gear) while another method will be designed for the deeper parts of the banks (those that require other tools, such as remotely operated vehicles, in place of SCUBA divers.)
- Conduct two expeditions (2006 and 2007) to implement sampling methods designed for coral reef caps.
- Develop a tool that will integrate survey design planning and analysis equations into a Geographic Information System (GIS).
Objective for September 2007: Conduct the second expedition to investigate the reef fish communities of the East and West Flower Garden Banks coral reef caps. The science team has analyzed the data obtained in 2006 to help refine their sampling strategy. Using high-resolution bathymetry maps, they have selected specific sites to sample so that the information collected will represent all of the various types of habitat found on the coral reef caps. Teams of divers will visit the selected sites and gather data such as the species and numbers of fish observed. The information will then be entered into a database so that it can be processed and analyzed. When paired with other data sets from the same areas, scientists can begin to understand the relationships between the fish populations and the different habitats.
- A publicly accessible database that can be queried to obtain information such as fish species abundance and size, data on coral cover by species, coral bleaching occurrences, and photos collected.
- A report detailing the sampling design for the diveable portion of the sanctuary. The report will provide information that will help refine and improve future sampling efforts.
- A tool that will integrate survey design planning and analysis equations into a Geographic Information System (GIS). This will help sanctuary scientists plan field missions and analyze the data gathered.