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2007 Florida Keys Mission
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The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is home to the world’s third largest barrier coral reef and its famed marine resources beckon millions of visitors per year.  Starting September 11, 2009, scientists from Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and partnering universities and organizations, embark on a nine-day research mission on the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster to study the health of these renowned reefs. Please tune in for daily mission logs from the scientists onboard the Coral Reef Disease and Condition Cruise and to learn more about the reefs of the Florida Keys!  

measuring coral size
Nancy Foster scholar Kathy Morrow measures a Mountaious Star Coral (Montastraea faveolata) inside the survey arc, which is the white line visable top, left in image. (Photo by Mike Henley)

Over the past few decades, a variety of human and environmental factors have contributed to the deterioration of reef health worldwide, but coral disease and bleaching are among the least understood culprits.  Since 1997, scientists aboard the Coral Reef Disease and Condition Cruise have been monitoring coral health along almost 200 miles of the Florida Reef Tract.  The data collected on this cruise will contribute to a better understanding of the relationships of human- and environmentally-induced stressors to coral disease prevalence and coral community structure.  During each annual mission, researchers perform more than 120 dives in order to survey 42 fixed stations at 13 reef sites within the sanctuary, extending from Carysfort Reef off Key Largo westward through the Tortugas Ecological Reserve. 

Annual monitoring at these fixed locations provides a long-term data set used to compare trends in reef health over time, which in turn will contribute to management decisions of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and direct future NOAA research priorities.

In addition to coral disease surveys, the NOAA ship Nancy Foster will be mapping areas throughout the sanctuary using multibeam sonar.  The data generated on this complementary project will provide new information on unmapped habitat types within the 2,900 square nautical miles of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. 

This year’s dedicated team of scientists hail from across the country, including: Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, George Mason University, Mote Marine Laboratory, Auburn University, the City of Marathon, and the Smithsonian Institute.
Visit the Meet the Team page to learn more about the scientists and crew who will call the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster home for nine-days. To view the mission log from 2008 click here.

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