Project Description: Monitoring Change in the Head of Carmel Submarine Canyon

Summary

The head of the Carmel Submarine Canyon (a side branch of the well-known Monterey Submarine Canyon) is located just north of Point Lobos State Reserve, where it is easily accessible from shore by students using small boats. A wide range of diverse habitats -- from sandy plateaus to vertical rock walls -- and depths ranging from the surface to more than 200 m can be reached within 10 minutes of shore. This makes it fertile ground for long-term studies by successive cohorts of undergraduate researchers who use ROVs or deploy time-lapse cameras to “revisit” the same areas visited earlier to observe and track changes in the marine environment from year to year. We are also developing beach-launchable ROVs and seafloor time-lapse camera systems that we can install to record changes on finer temporal scales.

Student Involvement

To date, approximately 20 undergraduate students and four graduate (masters) students have been involved in the design and construction of research equipment for this project and/or have been involved in deploying that equipment in the field to collect data.

Broader Significance

Growing concern over anthropogenically-induced changes in ocean conditions makes it imperative that we be able to monitor such changes; however, natural variations in ocean conditions often make it difficult to distinguish human-caused changes from “normal” variations, particularly when sampling is infrequent, as it often is in ocean research. We are using the head of Carmel Canyon, a relatively pristine area, as a test-bed for inexpensive seafloor instrumentation and related observation techniques designed to make it easier and less expensive to obtain frequent measurements of ocean conditions and benthic communities, thus giving us a better understanding of the timing and extent of normal fluctuations in these seafloor communities.

IfAME PI

Dr. Steve Moore

Financial Support

NSF (C-DEBI), NOAA/NURC, CSUMB UROC

Field Support

CSUMB Small Boats Program

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