Researchers from the UNC Coastal Studies Institute (UNC CSI) and National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center (NMFS SEFSC) NOAA Laboratory in Beaufort, NC embarked on a one-day cruise to the Gulf Stream offshore of Cape Hatteras, NC as part of a project to better understand the ecology of the Gulf Stream. Sargassum is a known sanctuary for marine life, providing habitat and food for unique and diverse plants and animals, including sea turtles; the nature and extent of its role in the ecology and nutrient cycling of the Gulf Stream and pelagic Atlantic Ocean are not well understood.
During the cruise, Corey Adams (Research Operations Coordinator, UNC CSI), Ted West (Research Technician, UNC CSI), and Claire Johnson (Research Technician, UNC CSI) collected physicochemical and biological samples from beds of the macroalgae, Sargassum natans and S. fluitans, along the western wall of the Gulf Stream and macroalgal specimens for laboratory experiments and analyses. NMFS SEFSC researchers, Drs. Larisa Avens, April Hall, and Joanne McNeil led the effort to observe and collect information about sea turtles. During the cruise, the researchers observed two leatherback sea turtles and captured four post-hatchling loggerhead sea turtles, from which data was collected prior to release.
As part of the Renewable Ocean Energy Program at UNC CSI, Dr. Lindsay Dubbs (Research Associate, Renewable Ocean Energy Program, UNC CSI and Research Assistant Professor, Institute for the Environment at UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC CSI) and Larisa Avens (Research Fishery Biologist, NMFS SEFSC, NOAA Beaufort Laboratory) led the collaborative research effort. Their work and that of other researchers involved in a project to assess the ecology of the Gulf Stream will include at least four seasonal cruises to and deployment of instruments in the Gulf Stream between now and June 2017.