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Gray's Reef 2007 Expedition
Mission info July 15 2006

Mission Log: June 15, 2007

Stephanie Schopmeyer
Florida Atlantic University  

Stephanie Schopmeyer
After yesterday’s “day off” due to unfavorable wind and wave conditions, we were ready for our first full day of work during our time on the Nancy Foster.  We did four dives on J reef (60-70’ deep) to put out permanent transect lines to use in the future to conduct repetitive benthic surveys of organisms covering the sea floor.  To maximize our work effort, we divided into two teams during each dive.  The first team (Leslie Bates, Rob Ruzicka, and me) was in charge of laying out a transect line and marking two meter intervals at 0.5, 2 and 5 meters from the scarp or ledge of the hard bottom.  The job of the second team (Hampton Harbin and Danny Gleason) was to drill holes in the substrate using an underwater pneumatic drill that runs off compressed air from a SCUBA tank and insert stainless steel rods. 

A researcher spots a school of fish during a diving safety stop.
A researcher spots a school of fish during a diving safety stop. (Photo: Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary)
It took the first three dives to complete the drilling and on the final dive the stainless steel rods were ‘glued’ into place with an epoxy which is soft initially but hardens within an hour underwater.  Leslie even had some time at the end of our dives to conduct some fish feeding experiments to determine if certain compounds found in sponge species are used to deter predation.  Although we were very productive during our dives today, conditions below the water’s surface were less than ideal.  For example, it became very dark around 20-30’ and visibility was only about 5’ which caused the line marking our site at the bottom disappear into the abyss!  Additionally, we began to have to swim against currents which made work more challenging as the day went on.  Thank goodness we used a good buddy system to keep track of each other and we were able to get our work done safely!  At the end of the day, we were happy with our accomplishments and we hope to have better visibility in the days to come.  Just a few things that make another day in the office of a marine scientist not quite so ordinary! 

I am very fortunate and excited to have been invited to participate in this cruise.  As a former graduate student of Danny Gleason, I came to Gray’s Reef for the first time in 2002 and now I get to join the research group again to continue gathering information on benthic communities found off the coast of Georgia.  I currently work as a research technician at Florida Atlantic University studying the effects of environmental stressors on seagrass species in Florida Bay.  It’s been nice getting out of the seagrass beds and back into the reef systems (my true love) and seeing how much knowledge has been gained over the past five years.  I have to admit the water could be a little warmer for me though!

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