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Fieldwork

Sea-Floor Mapping in the Gulf of Mexico Aboard the Research Vessel Bellows


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Whitney Neugebauer and Al Hine
Above: Whitney Neugebauer (USGS Eckerd College, left) and Al Hine (USF) examine material in grab sample obtained from a seagrass bed 20 nautical miles offshore Sarasota, Florida. [larger version]

Stan Locker, Shane Dunn, Kevin Bradley, and Al Hine
Above: (Left to right) Stan Locker, Shane Dunn, Kevin Bradley, and Al Hine of USF prepare to deploy C3D sonar imaging system on the research vessel Bellows off Sarasota, Florida, August 27, 2007. [larger version]

Kevin Bradley and Shane Dunn
Above: Kevin Bradley (left) and Shane Dunn of USF lower Shipek sediment sampler from the research vessel Bellows. [larger version]

On August 27, 2007, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of South Florida (USF), with students from Eckerd College and USF, boarded the research vessel Bellows for a 4-day research cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship left USF's College of Marine Science docks in St. Petersburg, Florida, with 13 persons on board. Leading the cruise were scientists Al Hine and Stan Locker of USF and Ellen Raabe of the USGS. The objectives were to investigate benthic habitat and associated shallow geologic framework on the West Florida inner continental shelf in support of the USGS Florida Shelf Habitat Mapping (FLaSH) project headed by Lisa Robbins (URL http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/flash/). The team surveyed new areas of the sea floor across the inner shelf to 60-m water depth, filling data gaps between previously mapped nearshore areas.

The technical crew included Bekka Larson, Whitney Neugebauer, Graham Johnston, and Courtney Kniss from Eckerd College; USF Marine Science graduate students Kevin Bradley and Shane Dunn; and Center for Ocean Technology/USF liaison Mike Hall. Researchers and technicians worked in 4-hour shifts around the clock to monitor equipment and perform computer processing. Weather during the cruise was generally uneventful, with only brief late-night swells.

The Bellows ran a 40-nautical-mile-long reconnaissance line, field-testing a Teledyne Benthos C3D sonar imaging system. A map covering an 800- to 900-m-wide swath of sea floor was produced in real time, from three transects extending seaward of Sarasota, Florida. Investigators were looking for confirmation of sinkhole depressions, rock outcrops, and coarse-sediment patterns indicated by usSEABED—a database of sea-floor data of various types compiled from a wide range of sources (see URL http://walrus.wr.usgs.gov/usseabed/). A boomer seismic-profiling system and single-beam Quester Tangent Corp. acoustic bottom-classification system were also deployed. The new imaging system proved to be a powerful and useful instrument on this first deployment, although some refinement is already underway.

Initial evaluation of the swath map indicates a seaward transition to a relict shelf with high diversity of sea-floor zones, such as coarse sediment, sand ridge, rock ledge, and seagrass beds. Detailed sonar-image mosaics were collected over two sites with an EdgeTech Dual-Frequency 272-TD operating at 100 kHz. Sediment was collected with a Shipek sediment grab sampler for ground-truthing the imagery and for sediment analysis.

Collaboration between the USGS and USF will continue as data are processed and released. Graham Johnston (Eckerd College) will conduct grain-size analysis of the sediment samples, and Whitney Neugebauer (USGS/Eckerd College) will assist Lisa Robbins (USGS) in analysis of sediment texture and composition. Neugebauer, a student at Eckerd College pursuing degrees in anthropology and geology, has been working as an intern at the USGS with Lisa Robbins and Ellen Raabe since May 2007. Her work has included developing teaching modules for the FLaSH project and compiling digital archives of underwater video from pipeline surveys. She enjoyed her summer internship and is looking forward to continuing it in the academic year.

Related Web Sites
Florida Shelf Habitat (FLaSH) Map Project
USGS (U.S. Geological Survey)
usSEABED
USGS (U.S. Geological Survey)

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in this issue:

Research
cover story:
Distinguishing Tsunami from Storm Deposits

Fieldwork
Sea-Floor Mapping in the Gulf of Mexico

Mapping the Sea Floor Southwest of Santa Rosa Island

Outreach Microbial Week on the Deep-Sea News Blog

Awards USGS Employees Recognized for Contributions Over Many Years of Service

Staff Coring Demonstration Aboard the R/V G.K. Gilbert

Publications

November Publications List


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