Southeast & Caribbean Region

NOAA Ship Nancy Foster

NCCOS oceanographer Tim Battista and UNCW’s underwater vehicle specialist Jason White demonstrate the capabilities of ocean gliders and remotely operated vehicles to middle school students from St. Thomas US Virgin Islands during a education outreach event on the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster.

Expedition Marks Twelve Years of Discovery in the Caribbean

Scientists recently completed the twelfth year of a research expedition to map seafloor habitats in the U.S. Caribbean aboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster. The team mapped nearly 200,000 underwater acres along St. Croix and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and completed 35 remotely operated vehicle dives.

Underwater Discoveries

They identified three seamounts, or underwater mountains, rising 25 meters off the seafloor and discovered a deep-water snapper assembly along the shelf break of St. Thomas. The seamounts were further investigated by researchers on the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer who uncovered that the seamounts were covered with a high diversity of life.

The data from the mission will be used to help resource officials better understand and manage this critically important region. Data will also be used to update NOAA nautical charts, which support everything from the region’s prosperous cruise ship industry and maritime shipping companies to local commercial and recreational fishers.

Science Outreach & Education

Scientists used the research cruise as a platform to highlight outcomes from NOAA’s longstanding and ongoing investment in the U.S. Virgin Islands to the territory’s newly elected delegate and governor, as well as local senators and NGO partners.

Outreach efforts extended to dozens of high school students in St. Thomas who participated in a hand-on marine science education program aboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster. Additionally, a school group from St. Croix joined researchers from NOAA and The Nature Conservancy Caribbean Program on a hike to learn about ridge-to-reef conservation. The mission was led by the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science with support from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and NOAA Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.

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