Technological developments in marine science and underwater imaging have advanced rapidly in the past few decades. . While we still rely on traditional SCUBA to collect coral samples, the ROV equipped with HD still and video cameras allows us to dive much deeper, stay down longer, and see more details. With three team members focused on habitat description and species IDs and one database annotator, we attempt to generate comprehensive records of the geological and biological characteristics of the banks. Josh, Michael, and Jennifer tried their hand at piloting the ROV and found that their experience with the quadcopter prepared them well. In addition to the suite of underwater cameras at the team’s disposal, we used the quadcopter to document on-deck activity, such as diver entries, ROV deployment and recovery, and even conducted aerial reef mapping at East Bank. Our GoPro is also an easy data collector that clips on to dive gear with minimal bulk and user effort, giving us more high definition footage of the reefs. Tools that are marketed for recreational fields have proven to be invaluable for science and continue to expand our lab’s research capabilities.
As we head back to Harbor Branch to process samples and begin data analysis on the ROV videos and photos, we reflect back on yet another successful research cruise to the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. We exceeded all of our objectives with the diligent help of the sanctuary staff and members of the R/V Manta crew and hope to be releasing some novel and interesting data in the near future!