Deep-Sea News

Atlantic Canyons Team Receives Partnering Award

The NOPP Office has announced the 2015 Excellence in Partnering Award recipient: Atlantic Canyons: Pathways to the Abyss. The NOPP Excellence in Partnering Award will be presented to 54 collaborators of the Atlantic Canyons project at the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans (23 February).


A 23-minute HD video that includes spectacular underwater footage of deep-sea coral habitats and the newly discovered chemosynthetic communities was completed in May 2015 and is available for viewing.

The project is led by Dr. Sandra Brooke of Florida State University, Dr. Steve W. Ross of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and Stephen Viada of Continental Shelf Ocean Sciences Inc.

The project team consists of collaborators from private industry, government agencies, and academic institutions that coordinated the exploration and documentation of the deep-water and benthic marine habitats of two mid-Atlantic Canyons located offshore of Virginia and Maryland. This effort involved research cruises to the Norfolk and Baltimore Canyons from 2011 to 2013 that found unexpected extensive deep-water coral ecosystems, identified over 125 species of fish, discovered large swaths of chemosynthetic mussel communities, documented historically important shipwrecks off the coast of Virginia, and deployed innovative sensing technologies on the canyon floors to monitor their oceanographic characteristics.

The research findings are significant and depict a biologically rich region that had not been fully explored in the past, including historically important shipwrecks, extensive deep-sea coral communities, and a vast methane-seep ecosystem. Analysis of a year’s worth of data on the ocean’s currents, temperatures, salinity and chemistry, collected by benthic landers, will be included in a forthcoming report BOEM expects to publish in 2016, and will add to the body of knowledge about the canyons as well as the broader western Atlantic Ocean. The benthic landers were designed and engineered by researchers from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, from the Netherlands and the USGS.

The federal agencies contributed equally to the study – funding approximately $9 million total between them over three years. “The partnership demonstrates that the public and private sector can achieve far more scientifically by working together than working alone, and that partnerships can be extremely effective to meet overlapping science needs,” said Dr. Rodney E. Cluck, Chief of BOEM’s Environmental Studies Program and co-chair of the federal working group that facilitates the NOPP.

In the 19-year history of the NOPP, this is only the second time that one of its studies has received two major awards. In January 2014, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell presented the DOI Partners in Conservation Award to this research team. Members include CSA Ocean Sciences as the prime contractor, and lead Principal Investigators from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and Florida State University. The archaeology lead was from the University of Rhode Island, and scientists from 11 other research institutions contributed to the research. ArtWork produced the photos and videography.

Researchers completed a total of seven cruise legs with 90 at-sea days. The team conducted 414 hours of Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) dives and mapped 6,406 km2. An HD video documentary of the project

Several scientific journal articles have already been published with more articles expected in the future. These include:

Brooke, S., and Ross, S.W. 2014. First observations of the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa in mid-Atlantic canyons of the USA. Deep-Sea Res. II. 104:245-251 . DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2013.06.011.

Obelcz, J., D. Brothers, J. Chaytor, U. ten Brink, S.W. Ross and S. Brooke. 2014. Geomorphic characterization of four shelf-sourced submarine canyons along the U.S Mid-Atlantic continental margin. Deep-Sea Res. II 104:106-119. DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2013.09.013.

Ross, S.W. , M. Rhode, A.M. Quattrini. 2015. Demersal Fish Distribution and Habitat Use Within and Near Baltimore and Norfolk Canyons, U.S. Middle Atlantic Slope 2015. Deep Sea Research I. 103:137-154. DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr.2015.06.004.

Ross, S.W., M. Rhode, S.T. Viada and R. Mather. 2016. Fishes associated with shipwreck and natural hard bottoms on the middle to outer continental shelf of the Middle Atlantic Bight near Norfolk Canyon. Fishery Bulletin 114: 45-57.

Photo caption: Photographs of fishes and habitats surveyed with remotely operated vehicles in 2012 and 2013 near Norfolk Canyon in the Middle Atlantic Bight: (A) school of unidentified anthiine serranids and at least one yellowtail bass (Anthias nicholsi, mid-left) on a shipwreck site; (B) dense aggregations of chain dogfish (Scyliorhinus retifer) lying on a shipwreck structure, 4 yellowfin bass (2 upper right, 2 lower right), and red arrows indicate clusters of egg cases of chain dogfish; (C) warsaw grouper (Hyporthodus nigritus), and a scorpionfish (Scorpaena sp., lower right lying on trawl net) on a shipwreck site; (D) snowy grouper (Hyporthodus niveatus) on the natural hard-bottom (NHB) site; the scaling laser dots near the anal fin indicate that this fish is at least 150 cm long in total length; (E) 2 blueline tilefish (Caulolatilus microps) on a shipwreck site; and (F) rosette skate (Leucoraja garmaini) on sandy habitat near a shipwreck site. Image courtesy of: Ross, S.W., M. Rhode, S.T. Viada and R. Mather. 2016 (Fishery Bulletin, 2016).



ECO Magazine is a marine science trade publication committed to bringing scientists and professionals the latest ground-breaking research, industry news, and job opportunities from around the world.


8502 SW Kansas Ave
Stuart, FL 34997

Newsletter Signup

The ECO Newsletter is a weekly email featuring the Top 10 stories of the past seven days, providing readers with a convenient way to stay abreast on the latest ocean science and industry news.