A team of researchers has begun investigating deep-sea habitats off the U.S. West Coast to help inform possible locations for offshore wind energy development.
Scientists and engineers from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) kicked off the mission on 7 October and plan to finish it a month later.
The expedition is being carried out onboard NOAA’s Reuben Lasker offshore California, Oregon and Washington, including sites within four National Marine Sanctuaries.
According to NOAA, one of the aims of the work is to identify sensitive habitats to avoid when establishing future offshore wind energy sites.
It is divided into two legs, with the first departing from Newport, Oregon. Over the following month, the vessel will travel down the coast, eventually docking in San Francisco in mid-October. The second leg will continue down the coast until the expedition is concluded in San Diego in early November.
The researchers will collect samples to help identify West Coast corals and sponges and revisit previously surveyed sites to document changes that have occurred over time.
Operations will run around the clock, with alternating ROV and AUV dives. The on-ship researchers will receive scientific support from a remote team located on land and connected to the vessel by a communication link.
The Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute are also partners in the project.