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State and Federal Agencies Partner for Seafloor-Sampling Survey off Massachusetts

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In September 2011, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) researchers and their partners collected seafloor photographs and sediment samples off Massachusetts to identify bottom types (such as bedrock, gravel, sand, or mud) and organisms living on the seafloor and in the sediment. This multiagency sampling survey was a component of the Massachusetts Seafloor Mapping Cooperative project (http://woodshole.er.usgs.gov/project-pages/coastal_mass/), begun in 2003. The mapping phase of the project—a survey of the seafloor geology inside the 3-mile limit of Massachusetts state waters—has been largely completed (see “Collaborative Seafloor-Mapping Program Completes Final Mapping Surveys off Massachusetts,” this issue). The September cruise was part of the followup phase, in which researchers are sampling the seafloor to better understand biological communities and habitat, as well as to refine the mapping-phase products.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ocean survey vessel (OSV) Bold
Above: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ocean survey vessel (OSV) Bold. Photograph by Kathryn Ford, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. [larger version]

Brian Andrews, Kate McMullen, Chuck Worley, and Seth Ackerman, all from the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center (WHSC) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, joined scientists and staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) for the 8-day survey (September 9-16, 2011) in the coastal waters of Massachusetts. Working aboard the ocean survey vessel (OSV) Bold (http://www.epa.gov/bold/), a 224-ft ocean and coastal monitoring vessel operated by the EPA, they collected samples in Cape Cod Bay, Buzzards Bay, and Vineyard Sound and offshore of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

The research team used the SEABed Observation and Sampling System (SEABOSS) to survey approximately 320 sites chosen by the CZM, DMF, and USGS. Developed at the USGS, the SEABOSS incorporates high-resolution digital still and video cameras with a modified Van Veen sediment grab sampler (see http://woodshole.er.usgs.gov/operations/sfmapping/seaboss.htm) to allow scientists to view the seafloor in realtime aboard the ship, manually trigger the still camera, and collect sediment grab samples. After a few minutes of drifting over the seabed, the SEABOSS is lowered to the seafloor, and a sediment sample is taken. (Sample grabs are not attempted in rocky areas.) Forward- and downward-looking video is recorded to DVD and digital tape during each deployment. Upon retrieval of the SEABOSS on deck, a sediment grab subsample is collected and stored for postcruise analysis at the WHSC sediment lab. On the OSV Bold cruise, additional subsamples were collected from the grab sampler at 214 sites to be postprocessed for benthic-fauna analyses by the CZM. On several days of calm seas, DMF researchers set off from the Bold aboard the ship’s small boat, a 23-ft Parker, to collect photographs and video of the seafloor at 116 sites that were too shallow (less than 10-m water depth) for the Bold to reach.

Several (of more than a thousand) seafloor photographs taken by the SEABOSS
Above: Several (of more than a thousand) seafloor photographs taken by the SEABOSS during the September 2011 survey aboard the OSV Bold. [larger version]

USGS researchers worked on the Bold with Bob Boeri, Emily Huntley, Dan Sampson, Chris Garby, Dave Janik, and Todd Callaghan (all from the CZM); Kathryn Ford and John Logan (both from the DMF); Marcel Belaval, Katie Connors, Mary Garren, and Dave Turin (all from the EPA); and volunteers Alex Boeri and Kate Douglas. Dann Blackwood and Emile Bergeron (both USGS) were a tremendous help during the precruise mobilization in Woods Hole. We also owe a great debt of gratitude to the ship’s crew, who kept survey operations running smoothly and made sure we were safe, dry, and well fed during the cruise.

Kate McMullen at the SEABed Observation and Sampling System control center SEABed Observation and Sampling System being retrieved on the deck of the OSV Bold
Above Left: Kate McMullen (USGS) at the SEABed Observation and Sampling System (SEABOSS) control center, monitoring the realtime video feed from the SEABOSS, keeping the survey log, and triggering the high-resolution digital still camera. Photograph by Dave Turin, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. [larger version]

Above Right: The USGS' SEABOSS being retrieved on the deck of the OSV Bold by Todd Callaghan (left; Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management [CZM]) and Katie Connors, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Photograph by Bob Boeri, CZM. [larger version]

The successful sampling survey was a great opportunity for state and federal agencies to work cooperatively toward understanding the marine environment of coastal Massachusetts. Results from this research cruise will be used to create and refine maps showing the characteristics of the seafloor, identify coastal and marine resources, and assist agencies in siting and permitting coastal-zone projects. This work will contribute to the goals established in the 2009 Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan by providing data for efficient and comprehensive coastal and marine spatial planning and ecosystem-based management of the coastal ocean.


Related Sound Waves Stories
Collaborative Seafloor-Mapping Program Completes Final Mapping Surveys off Massachusetts
Jan. / Feb. 2012

Related Web Sites
Geologic Mapping of the Seafloor Offshore of Massachusetts
SEABed Observation and Sampling System (SEABOSS)
Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan
State of Massachusetts

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cover story:
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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