On October 26, seven divers from FAU Harbor Branch and FWC (PI Joshua Voss, graduate students Michael Studivan, Jennifer Polinski, and Danielle Dodge, lab technician Amanda Alker, videographer Brian Cousin, and FWC employee Jeff Beal) set out with a van full of dive and sampling gear to Galveston, TX for another research cruise at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. In continuation of previous research cruises to the banks, the team hoped to accomplish two main research objectives: to sample additional shallow and mesophotic Montastraea cavernosa for Michael and Jennifer's projects, and to start a reciprocal transplant experiment across depths with the same species.
With the help of local technical divers Jake Emmert (Moody Gardens) and Chris Ledford (Texas Parks and Wildlife), Josh and Michael completed the deep objectives at 150ft using open circuit Trimix, while the remaining divers sampled shallow corals at 70ft. While rough weather forced us to shorten the cruise to 2.5 days and we were not able to fully set up the reciprocal transplant experiment, the remaining samples will aid in valuable analyses examining connectivity and physiological similarities across the Flower Garden Banks.
The team will return to the FGBNMS in May 2016 for additional sampling at other coral banks, and to check on the coral colonies transplanted from mesophotic to shallow depths. In the meantime, check out the photos from the cruise on our Flickr. Also, enjoy the compilation video below that was put together by the FGB Sanctuary office from last year's ROV cruise at some of the same reef sites!