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Collaborative Seafloor-Mapping Program Completes Final Mapping Surveys off Massachusetts

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Two seafloor-mapping surveys off the coast of Massachusetts in spring and summer 2011 wrapped up fieldwork for the mapping phase of the investigation by the Massachusetts Seafloor Mapping Cooperative (, a collaboration between the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center (WHSC) and the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM). The long-term objectives of this program are to provide a framework for scientific research and to develop geologic information to assist the management of coastal and marine resources. High-resolution spatial data and detailed maps of seafloor geology build a foundation for protecting fish habitat, delineating marine resources, and assessing environmental changes caused by natural or human impacts. Initiated in 2003, this collaborative program has produced five USGS Open-File Reports containing spatial data and geologic interpretations of the seafloor within state waters. A regional seabed characterization map will be produced as a final product of the mapping phase, along with derivative reports on the Quaternary geology of the region.

M/V Scarlett Isabella R/V Rafael
Above Left: The 40-m-long by 10-m-wide M/V Scarlett Isabella, used during WHSC Field Activity 2011-003-FA in May 2011. Photograph by Dann Blackwood, USGS. [larger version]

Above Right: The 8-m-long R/V Rafael, used during WHSC Field Activity 2011-013-FA in August 2011. Photograph by David Foster, USGS. [larger version]

In May 2011, USGS researchers conducted a 2-week survey aboard the 40-m-long motor vessel (M/V) Scarlett Isabella that filled data gaps in Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound from previous surveys (see related article in Sound Waves, December 2010, Seafloor Mapping in Coastal Massachusetts—How Enhanced Network Infrastructure Facilitates Data Management and Collaboration with Project Partners). USGS crew participating in this survey included Dave Foster (principal investigator), Bill Danforth, Chuck Worley, Emile Bergeron, Eric Moore, Seth Ackerman, and Aaron Turecek. The spacious working deck and accommodations of the Scarlett Isabella provided ample room for USGS vans and gear. During 11 days of 24-hour operations, a total of 101 km2 was mapped with a SEA SWATHplus 234-kHz interferometric sonar (to measure seafloor depths and backscatter of sound energy, which provides information about seafloor roughness and composition), a Klein 3000 dual-frequency sonar (to measure backscatter), and an EdgeTech 512i Chirp seismic profiler (to image subbottom sediment layers). Data collected during this survey (WHSC Field Activity 2011-003-FA) will be combined with data from two previous surveys (WHSC Field Activities 2009-002-FA and 2010-004-FA) and published in two USGS Open-File Reports, one covering Buzzards Bay and the other covering Vineyard Sound.

Areas mapped during WHSC Field Activities 2011-003-FA and 2011-013-FA.
Above: Areas mapped during WHSC Field Activities 2011-003-FA (gold) and 2011-013-FA (green). Areas displayed as gray-scale shaded relief were mapped during previous USGS/CZM surveys. Red rectangle outlines area of perspective view of Hedge Fence Shoal, below. [larger version]

The second survey (WHSC Field Activity 2011-013-FA), which focused on shallow areas (less than 10-m water depth), was conducted in August 2011 aboard the 8-m-long research vessel (R/V) Rafael during 19 days of daylight operations. The Rafael was hauled out of the water in anticipation of Hurricane Irene, providing a 4-day break midway through the survey. Survey crew from the WHSC Seafloor Mapping Group included Dave Foster (principal investigator), Barry Irwin, Chuck Worley, Bill Danforth, Eric Moore, Brian Andrews, and Aaron Turecek. The purpose of this survey was to collect geophysical data in the shallow areas that larger, deeper-draft survey vessels could not safely navigate. The Rafael survey area covered approximately 66 km2 in areas as shallow as 2 m over Hedge Fence and Lucas Shoals (see detailed view of Hedge Fence Shoal, below). Data were collected by using the SWATHplus 234-kHz sonar (depth and backscatter), the Klein 3000 dual frequency sonar (backscatter), and a Knudsen Chirp 3200 (3.5 kHz) subbottom profiler. Data collected during this survey will be published later this year.

Three-dimensional perspective view of high-resolution bathymetry
Above: Three-dimensional perspective view of high-resolution bathymetry (2-m resolution) collected by the R/V Rafael on Hedge Fence Shoal (outlined in red on map, above) during August cruise, showing some of the large (3-m relief) bedforms in this high-energy environment. [larger version]


Related Sound Waves Stories
Seafloor Mapping in Coastal Massachusetts�How Enhanced Network Infrastructure Facilitates Data Management and Collaboration with Project Partners
December 2010

Related Web Sites
Geologic Mapping of the Seafloor Offshore of Massachusetts

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Arctic Expedition Reaches 88.5 Degrees North Latitude

Collaborative Seafloor-Mapping Program Completes Final Surveys

Seafloor-Sampling Survey off Massachusetts

Coral Reef Disease Hits Kāne'ohe Bay, Hawai'i

Climate Change Scenarios in California's Bay-Delta

"Hurricane" Movie and TV Series to Feature USGS Scientists

Public Forum On Seafloor Mapping at the Ocean Explorium

Working Sessions on Use Cases for Semantic-Web Development

Workshop on Fledermaus Software

Video Podcast Series Wins 2011 USGS Shoemaker Award

Staff Sedimentologist Arnold H. Bouma Passes Away

Publications Views of South San Francisco Bay Before Salt-Pond Restoration

Using Mangrove Peat to Study Ancient Coastal Environments and Sea-Level Rise

Jan. / Feb. 2012 Publications

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