I have participated on several previous Foster cruises at Gray's Reef and have been fortunate to make this one as well. I am a Research Scientist at the University of Georgia and have visited Grays Reef for many years. In addition, I am also the Director and Diving Safety Officer for the University System of Georgia Scientific Diving Program. During the two part cruise at Grays Reef, a number of the Georgia divers will be conducting research.
Scott Noakes and Sarah Fangman attaching instruments on the seafloor observatory. (Photo: Greg McFall/Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary)
Of the many tasks that I have undertaken while on the Foster, deploying carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors both on the seafloor and the Gray's Reef buoy have been the most challenging. Grays Reef is truly a unique sanctuary in that it is the only sanctuary that participates in a national initiative for studying how increasing CO2 affects the oceans. To put it briefly, Gray's Reef is participating in this initiative because an increase in the human-induced CO2 in the atmosphere will cause a decrease in seawater pH (acidity scale) which will cause additional stress on the seafloor community at Grays Reef.
This week, we were able to install a new sensor platform on the seafloor that houses CO2 and water quality sensors. The new platform will make it easier for divers to change out the sensors on a routine basis for cleaning and downloading the data. I also visited the Gray's Reef buoy to change out the CO2 sensor system with new electronics and batteries. Riding the buoy is not exactly a glamorous task, but this was an opportune time to get it done. Once completed, we returned to the Foster only to find out that the system needed to be reset so another "buoy ride" was required. After a short visit to the buoy the following day, the CO2 system was in operation.
Hammerhead Sharks.(Photo: Scott Noakes/Univeristy of Georgia)
In addition to the CO2 work, I have also participated in fish assessment, marine debris and geological/paleontological oriented dives. While completing these dives, we have seen hammerhead sharks, nurse sharks, large stingrays, an eagle ray, horse conch laying eggs and many other unique marine organisms. Things are never boring while working and diving on the Foster and the days pass quickly.