Facilitating Science
Flower Garden Banks

RV Manta
R/V Manta has been the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary research vessel since June 2008. Credit: NOAA

There are several resources available to researchers at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Please contact the Research Coordinator for discussions on facilitating research within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

Research Coordinator: Emma Hickerson


The 83 foot R/V Manta serves Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary as part of NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary fleet. The vessel design provides enhanced capabilities for on-board scientific data collection and diving operations, plus increased stability and speed needed for research, education, enforcement, and management of the sanctuary and surrounding waters in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Please contact the Research Coordinator to discuss opportunities for collaborative research aboard sanctuary boats

Download a summary document about the R/V Manta


A permit is required to conduct research within Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary. Regulations provide for temporary permitting of specific activities that are not otherwise permissible. Such activities are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Permit requests are evaluated based on their potential single and cumulative impacts to sanctuary resources versus the potential benefits the activity may provide in terms of resource protection.

Overview of Sanctuary Permits


Located about 115 miles off the Gulf coast, the coral reefs of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary support a broad web of marine life, including manta rays, sea turtles, and whale sharks. The sanctuary offers 15 moored dive sites on the reef caps of the three sites with dive profiles of 55-130 feet.


  • Scientific Divers may dive under reciprocity while conducting research from the NOAA Research Vessel Manta.


  • Bauer 200 B-Trox nitrox membrane dive compressor (12 cfm) with 4-bottle cascade storage
  • Nitrox fill panel with O2 analyzer and 4 fill whips
  • Dive master station and extra tank racks
  • (2) 6-person dive benches with tank holders, folding tables, hanging racks
  • (2) 6'x8' dive platforms with 6' dive ladders
  • Freshwater rinse showers on transom and main deck
  • Emergency oxygen and regulator
  • Hyperlite recompression chamber

Lab Space

There is lab space aboard R/V Manta and within the office of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. The ship's dry lab has ample space for ROV controls and other equipment, with convenient cable access ports to the outside deck.

  • R/V Manta SCS System. Includes surface CTD, dissolved oxygen, pH, redox, air temperature, rel humidity, barometer, wind speed and direction, Chlorophyll, CDOM, Turbidity, Tri Fluorometer (3 wavelengths). Observations are recorded continuously.
  • HAZMAT storage locker, double stainless steel sinks (freshwater, saltwater) in wet lab
  • Acid-use-only sink (fume hood install in future)
  • Freezer and deep freeze
  • Entertainment rack system in dry lab (AV receiver, DVD player, speakers)
  • Uni-strut tie-down system
  • LCI-90 readout (payout speed and distance)
  • Trawl winch remote controller
  • Closed circuit TV with controller (4 cameras)
  • UPS power, 120V clean power

Download the R/V Manta Request Form


There are accommodations available aboard the R/V MANTA for 14 people for 5 days; 25 people for day trips. These include:

  • Sleeping quarters (lockers & hooks in all rooms)
    • Main Deck: one 4-person and two 2-person rooms
    • Below Deck: two 3-person rooms
  • Two interior heads with showers
  • One outside head and separate shower
  • Mess seats 14 people with LCD TV backdrop
  • Galley with stove, microwave, refrigerator, freezer, ice maker, and trash compactor
  • Gear storage on main deck under dive benches, in labs, and outside of bridge

Research Areas

With the exception of zones affecting oil and gas operations in and around the sanctuary, there are no specific regulatory zones in the sanctuary. The sanctuary, however, in cooperation with the research community has characterized distinct biological zones describing the habitats within FGBNMS. Each of these zones has been designated based solely on the benthic community composition. Currently, the zones include coral reef, coral community, coralline algae (including coralline algae reefs and algal nodules), deep coral, soft bottom, brine seep, and mud volcano (Schmahl et al. 2008 and Hickerson et al. 2008). Each of these biological zones harbors a unique and distinct benthic community.

Data Buoys

A network of buoys that collect real-time data on oceanic conditions have been deployed in and near the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Collected parameters include wind speed and direction, wave height, dominant wave period, average wave period, air temperature, water temperature and atmospheric pressure. A listing of these buoys may be accessed from here.

Equipment and Instruments

Deck Equipment

  • Markey COM 7H oceanographic winch with 1000 meters of .322" electro-mechanical cable (on turntable) slip ring assembly
  • Trawl Kinematics science winch with 1000 meters of 7/16" galvanized cable
  • A-frame with 4500 pounds safe working load (SWL), has block with LCI-90 wire-readout
  • Morgan model knuckle-boom crane with maximum reach of 10'6"
  • Polaris 15'06" "Mobula": aluminum RHIB with 40hp Yohatsu (6.5 gallons fuel)
  • Hydraulic connections on port side for hydraulic tools
  • Hydraulic lines on starboard side
  • Main deck tie-downs with 2'x2' pattern (.75" stainless steel eye-bolts)
  • Moon pool opening approximately 2'x1.5'
  • Pole mount brackets (no pole at this time)
  • Observation area with fold down benches forward of the bridge
  • 220VAC, 440VAC power hook-up
  • Interchangeable main deck space
  • Freshwater and saltwater hoses

Network and Computers

  • Cat 5 network drops throughout vessel, R232 drops in select locations (not wired)
  • Dell laptop computer

Bridge Electronics

  • Furuno Navnet Plotters (Gulf of Mexico electronic charts)
  • Furuno radars and AIS
  • (5) Steering stands--center console, port and starboard bridge, starboard bridge wing, aft control station
  • Furuno autopilot
  • (2) ICOM VHF marine-band ship radios
  • (3) Hand-held VHF radios
  • Iridium 9505 satellite phone
  • Intercom system with 10 stations, talk-back capable loudhailers (exterior)
  • Internal phone system
  • Closed circuit TV (4 cameras)

Special Considerations

There are no special considerations that researchers need to be aware of at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Key Documents

FGBNMS Scientific Publications

Bibliography of scientific publications on research conducted at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

Science Needs

The Science Needs Assessment is designed to provide up to date information on the priority management issues facing national marine sanctuaries and defines the science and information needs necessary to address these issues.

Condition Report

The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Condition Report summarizes resources in the sanctuary, pressures on those resources, current condition and trends, and management responses to the pressures that threaten the integrity of the marine environment.

Management Plan

A Sanctuary management plan is a site-specific planning and management document that describes the objectives, policies, and activities for a sanctuary.  The management plan outlines the activities for programs over the next five years and beyond, along with staffing and budget needs, and performance measures.

Monitoring Inventory

National marine sanctuaries conduct and support monitoring programs that target a wide array of topics involving natural processes and human influences on water, habitat, living resources and maritime archaeological resources. The following links provide a listing of the major subject areas that are being monitored at each sanctuary. For a complete listing and description of all monitoring programs please visit each sanctuary's Monitoring Inventory.