The Flower Garden Banks NMS research team (Emma Hickerson, G.P. Schmahl, Doug Weaver, Kyle Byers, and Emily Platzer) conducted its annual Long Term Monitoring Research Cruise during June 19 21, 2006. Seventeen participants including the FGBNMS research team, as well as volunteers and scientists from Texas A&M University (College Station and Corpus Christi), Bainbridge College (Georgia), REEF and Azure Photography conducted 147 dives. This is the 16th cruise to photograph repetitive stations, conduct video surveys, and conduct diadema and lobster surveys. A total of 43 photostations were found and photographed, which was an encouraging result because of concerns that many photostations would be lost as a result of Hurricane Rita in the fall of 2005. Only three photostations that were photographed in June 2005 were not found.
The sea conditions while on the cruise were: two to four - foot seas, slight current, 80-foot visibility, and intermittent thunderstorms. Sea temperature and salinity profiles were taken several times each day, and documented with a fresh water lens 33.6ppt on the surface and approximately 36.1ppt at depth.
Monitoring Techniques and Findings
REEF’s three fish watchers (Greg Bunch, Jay Gardner, and Lillian Kenney) conducted 24 fish surveys during the cruise.
Dr. Mary Wicksten (TAMU) collected new records of anudibranch, a hermit crab, and a shamefaced crab. Dr. Wicksten worked closely with Joyce and Frank Burek to photodocument the new records.
Dr. Craig Burnside and student, Jenna Fulghum, of Bainbridge College surveyed the queen conch (Strombus gigas). They reported 30 conchs in total, 27 of which were adults, and averaged approximately 30cm in length. Interestingly, three juveniles were observed, measuring approximately 20cm in length, which could suggest a second recruitment event. Four of the 27 adult conchs had been previously tagged.