NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research Launches the Lophelia II
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) just launched the Lophelia II 2012: Deepwater Platform Corals Expedition. The Lophelia II 2012: Deepwater Platform Corals expedition is the final cruise in a four-year research mission to explore and study deepwater or “cold-water” coral communities in the Gulf of Mexico. Visit http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov//explorations/12lophelia/welcome.html for posting includes daily logs, videos and images, lesson plans, an Ask an Explorer feature, and much more!
Deepwater coral reefs were discovered in the Gulf of Mexico nearly 50 years ago, but very little is known about the ecology of these communities or the basic biology of the corals that produce them. Although deepwater coral reefs are normally associated with hardgrounds, the corals that form them can also grow on artificial surfaces, including shipwrecks and petroleum production platforms. In 2008, there were more than 4,000 active platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, and thousands of others that are no longer active. The Lophelia II 2012: Deepwater Platform Corals expedition, the final of a series of cruises sponsored by OER, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), will focus on investigating the biology and ecology of deepwater corals and associated organisms growing on oil production platforms.
The expedition will take place aboard the R/V Brooks McCall, and will use the Kraken II remotely operated vehicle (ROV) – a tethered robot capable of diving and sampling to depths of 1,000 meters, developed at the University of Connecticut’s Northeast Underwater Research Technology and Education Center; and a CTD – a package of electronic instruments that measures water conductivity, temperature, and depth.
The primary expedition objective is to document the occurrence, depth range, and growth rates of Lophelia pertusa corals on oil rig structures. Other objectives include:
- Collect samples for genetic analyses and other live animal studies;
- Document other corals and associated fauna that also occur on the oil rigs;
- Obtain cores to investigate the effects of rigs on fauna that live in sediments;
- Collect samples for coral aging investigations; and
- Collect samples for studies of the black coral Leiopathes sp.
These investigations are targeted toward broad questions that also guided previous OER-sponsored expeditions:
- What deepwater communities are associated with oil rig structures in the Gulf of Mexico?
- What organisms are characteristic of these communities?
- What are the relationships between coral communities on artificial and natural substrates?
- What processes control the occurrence and distribution of deepwater coral communities in the Gulf of Mexico?
- What is the life history of Lophelia pertusa corals in the Gulf of Mexico?
For this expedition, educators will find:
- WEB LOGS written by educators and scientists, capturing daily activities and discoveries.
- Amazing VIDEO and IMAGES throughout the expedition.
- An Ocean Explorer Expedition Education Module (EEM) designed for teachers of students in Grades 5-12, including an Expedition Purpose, standards based LESSONS, Interactive MULTIMEDIA COMPONENTS for students, OceanAGE CAREER CONNECTIONS, and Other RESOURCES AND LINKS to help educators bring the excitement behind this expedition into their classrooms.
- An ASK AN EXPLORER feature for students and educators to submit
questions to, and receive answers from, the explorers during the expedition.
Join us today on a journey to a part of our ocean planet that few have seen – the natural and artificial hard bottom habitats deep in the Gulf of Mexico!