Awards were given to the top poster presentations during the conference. Graduate student Matthew Rittinghouse, from the College of Charleston’s BEAMS (BEnthic Acoustic Mapping and Survey) program, won third place for his research poster,Predictive habitat modeling of a submarine ridge off of the West Florida Escarpment.
Habitat modeling offers a useful tool for deep sea exploration planning and a cost effective approach to deep sea ecosystem management. Challenges to these techniques include the appropriate scale of analysis, availability of data, definition of predictor variables and potential for model verification. In 2012, the Schmidt Ocean Institute R/V Falkor collected high resolution bathymetry data along the West Florida Escarpment. A ridge feature near the shelf break, 400-650 metres deep, had been mapped previously in the year by the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. Video transects conducted by the Global Explorer MK3 ROV revealed a diverse assemblage of deep sea corals and associated organisms. Habitat forming corals, such as Lophelia pertusa, Leiopathes sp., Plumarella sp. and Stylaster sp. were observed.
The goal of the work was to generate a mesoscale predictive habitat model based on observed species distributions, substrate character and bathymetry. This predictive model will be used to assess the areas with the greatest potential for conservation and future research.
To view the full academic poster, visit the CARIS website.