Aquarius 2010: If Reefs Could Talk

Aquarius 2010: If Reefs Could Talk

Principal Investigator: NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program
Training: October 4 — 8
Mission: October 12 — 21

In October 2010, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries will host a mission in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) entitled Aquarius 2010: If Reefs Could Talk. This mission will be conducted in partnership with the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Aquarius Reef Base located in Key Largo, Florida, and be supported by researchers from the University of Connecticut and California State University. By incorporating both scientific research and educational programs into this multi-disciplinary mission, the ONMS will bring the science of ocean conservation and the underwater world to communities nationwide. Science program themes during this mission will include biodiversity, climate change and technology for field science. During live broadcasts each day, scientists and educators will work together to highlight key issues about each of these themes and explain how they relate to the nations ocean resources and every American. Topside and saturation diving will support both science and education components of the mission. The three major themes are outlined below:

Biodiversity

Critical to the integrity of any natural system is the condition of all components that comprise that system. In natural ecosystems, one measure of this is biodiversity, or simply said, what is out there, where is it, and how much is there? During Aquarius 2010: If Reefs Could Talk, mission staff will explore aspects of biodiversity on the reef around the Aquarius underwater laboratory. Aldo Leopold once said "To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering." True to this advice, mission staff will study the cogs and wheels, that is the biodiversity, that makes up the ecosystem of this special area, as well as the connections between them, all of which determine the health of the natural system.

Climate Change and Ocean Acidification

The topic of climate change is on the forefront of most aspects of our society. During Aquarius 2010: If Reefs Could Talk information and discussion on climate change will be integrated throughout all of our science and education activities. A goal of this mission will be to promote a better understanding of climate change by using National Climate Literacy Principles to help participants of the mission understand, and be engaged in, exploring the impacts of climate change on natural resources, and its implications for marine conservation.

Technology Testing and Training

Throughout the mission, education and science staff from across the sanctuary system will use current technologies to successfully complete their tasks during the mission. Some of the technologies that will be highlighted in the mission include: the Aquarius habitat, hydro- acoustic mapping systems, and underwater communication systems. Further, demonstrations of other new technologies will be held throughout the mission. These demonstrations will serve to train ONMS staff and enhance scientific monitoring capabilities underwater. These tests will also be integrated into the education programming to provide participants a look at the technology used for scientific research in an underwater environment. The highlighted technologies will include technical diving systems, underwater communication systems, AUVs and ROVs, diver propulsion devices, 3D imaging and display systems, and a newly developed spherical video system.