Kennedy News

Tracy Young
Kennedy Space Center
(321) 867-2468

April 23, 2003
RELEASE : 32-03
Media Overview Of Oculina Coral Reef Mapping Project Set For Monday, April 28
Media representatives will have an opportunity to speak with participants of the Oculina Coral Banks Project at the Naval Ordnance Test Unit (NOTU) docking port on Monday, April 28.

NASA/KSC is participating in an undersea expedition to characterize the condition of the deep-sea coral reefs and reef fish populations in the Oculina Banks marine protected area, 20 miles offshore of the east coast of Florida. Scientists on the team, will be deploying an underwater robot, a seafloor sampler, and a Passive Acoustic Monitoring System (PAMS), originally developed by NASA to monitor the impact of rocket launches on wildlife refuge lagoons at KSC.

The research is sponsored by NOAA Fisheries and will take place onboard the Liberty Star, the NASA Space Shuttle support ship operated by United Space Alliance. The ship will depart from Port Canaveral April 29 and will return on May 9.

The Oculina Banks stretch 30 miles offshore from Ft. Pierce to Cape Canaveral, Fla., and includes the East Coast’s first Marine Protected Area (MPA). The ivory tree coral, Oculina varicosa, has constructed various mounds and ridges in water depths of 150 to 300 feet underneath the Gulf Stream and is critical habitat for more than 70 fish species, including declining snapper and grouper stocks. Unfortunately, trawling over the past 30 years has reduced much of the coral reef habitat to fields of rubble. The team will use a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to study unexplored sites identified during the 2002 acoustic mapping survey, also done onboard the Liberty Star, in the hopes of finding the last of the live coral banks.

Participating in the overview will be:

Andrew Shepard, expedition leader, National Undersea Research Center, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, NC, (NURC/UNCW)

John Reed, co-principal investigator, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution

Lance Horn, ROV operator, National Undersea Research Center, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, NC, (NURC/UNCW)

Leslie Sautter, geologist, College of Charleston, SC

Michael Lane, acoustics engineer, NASA, Spaceport Engineering & Technology, KSC

Dr. Grant Gilmore, co-principle investigator, Passive Acoustic Monitoring System, Dynamac, KSC

During the mission, students will be able to ask scientists questions, view a live webcast and read the daily logs produced onboard the Liberty Star. The webcast co-sponsored by NASA’s Oceanography Program, KSC’s Telescience Lab and NURC/UNCW will take place on May 1, 2003, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and can be accessed by visiting http://oceanica.cofc.edu.

Due to security considerations, media representatives planning to attend must contact Tracy Young, 321/867-2468 by noon, Monday, April 28. Media will depart at 2:45 p.m. from the Gate 1 Pass & Identification Building, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). No transportation will be provided from the KSC Press Site.

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