USGS Scientists Team Up with National Geographic's Sustainable Seas Expedition to Explore Deep Reefs at Pulley Ridge
On June 27th, USGS coral reef research geologist Bob Halley and intern Katie Ciembronowicz
of the SPFC departed Tampa Bay aboard the NOAA ship Gordon Gunter. The 4-day cruise was
the next leg in National Geographic's Sustainable Seas Expedition (SSE) exploring the West
Florida shelf, specifically the Pulley Ridge area. Headed by the remarkable Sylvia Earle, chief
scientist and explorer-in-residence, this leg of the expedition brought together scientists from
different organizations. In addition to the USGS researchers, the scientific party consisted of
Steve Baumgartner and Ben Richards of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, David
Guggenheim of the Ocean Conservancy (formally the Center for Marine Conservation), Gale
Mead and Liz Garamendi of the National Geographic Society, and photographer Kip Evens.
Special appreciation is extended to Ensign Andy Hall, the operations officer for the Gordon Gunter.
in the one-person submersible on board the NOAA vessel Gordon Gunter.
The Pulley Ridge area refers to an intriguing series of linear, north-south-trending elevated ridges
that exhibit extensive modern coral growth at considerable water depths (60 to 80 m). The seafloor
surface consists of an extensive coralline algal nodule layer overlying a sand substrate. Pulley
Ridge was first documented in a Southwest Florida Shelf Ecosystem Study prepared by the
Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS region in January 1983. Bret Jarrett, a
Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Florida, and his major advisor Al Hine, also with USF,
are conducting current research on the area.
Index map shows location of Pulley Ridge study area on southwest Florida shelf.
The Pulley Ridge leg of SSE 2001 set out to explore this remarkable ecosystem using a one-person
submersible called DeepWorker mounted with a digital video camera. Nuytco Research Inc. in North
Vancouver, British Columbia, built the submarine. The sub's crew consisted of Tim Bulman,
pilot/technician, Sasha Lebaron, tracking technician, and John Allan, electronics technician. The
sub completed five successful dives and aborted one. Each diver captured 3-5 hours of video. In
addition to extensive coral cover observed on some dives, other deep-water features included grouper
holes, tilefish mounds, coralline algal nodules, several other fish species, and fields of green algae.
Tracking the sub:
Steve Baumgartner, Bob Halley, Sasha Lebaron, and Sylvia Earle, in the communication center,
are tracking the sub's movements during a dive and listening to the pilot's comments and observations.
In the evenings after the videotapes were dubbed, the scientific party gathered to plan dive sites for
the following day. Bob Halley had brought extended charts and bathymetric maps of the area and
usually suggested the sites. After the science meetings, Katie Ciembronowicz collected on-site
sediment samples with a bottom grab sampler and help from the NOAA crew. At 0210 hrs on June
30th, grab sample #10 was recovered from a water depth of 83 m (270 ft) and contained a jellylike
alga identified by Sylvia Earle as Verdigellas peltata. This alga was not previously known to inhabit
the Gulf of Mexico although it has been found in the Bahamas.
Katie Ciembronowicz and NOAA crew member collect sediment grab samples.
On July 1st, Bob and Katie departed the Gordon Gunter and caught a ride into Key West on a second
NOAA vessel, the Ferrel, which was just completing a fish tissue sampling expedition in the Dry
Tortugas. The two vacancies aboard the Gunter were quickly filled by newly arriving National Public
Radio journalists covering the SSE. The departure date coincided with the ribbon-cutting ceremony
celebrating the new no-take fish sanctuary in the Dry Tortugas. The timeliness of this positive event
helped focus thoughts among the researchers on the possibility of making Pulley Ridge a marine
sanctuary in an effort to preserve its remarkable ecosystem.
in this issue:
Pulley Ridge Reefs
Stellwagen Bank Visitor Center
Coastal Zone 2001
African Dust Briefing for DoD
Hazardous Waste Work
Capt. Roy Gaensslen
Monterey Bay Sanctuary
August Publications List