Feb. 19, 2004 – Thanks to help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment, scientists involved in work with the V.I. Coral Reef National Monument off St. John and Buck Island Reef National Monument off St. Croix will get a better idea of what their ocean floors look like.
"It's best managed if we understand what is actually there," said Jeff Miller, a V.I. National Park and Coral Reef National Monument fisheries biologist.
The 187-foot NOAA research vessel Nancy Foster will be at St. Croix on Saturday and Sunday and at St. John for 10 days starting on Monday.
At the sites, Miller said, the crew will tow a video camera behind the ship to map the underwater landscape. U.S. Geological Survey personnel are involved in the project, which also includes evaluating fish habitats.
National park officials have been trying to get the work done for years, Miller said, but such an undertaking requires lots of ship time as well as funding.
While divers can look around, the deep waters of the Coral Reef National Monument prevent accurate mapping without a ship such as the Nancy Foster.
Zandy Hillis-Starr, chief of resource management for the Buck Island Reef, said the national park does not have the funds to carry out the mapping without NOAA's help. "The mission is pure serendipity," she said.
The work is needed because the Coral Reef National Monument is new. It was just over three years ago that President Clinton created it and at the same time greatly expanded the Buck Island monument. "This is our first inventory and assessment of deep waters," Hillis-Starr said.
The Nancy Foster, based in Charleston, S.C., carries a crew of 17. The vessel is named for an assistant administrator at NOAA who died after a long illness in 2000. For more information about the ship, visit the NOAA Marine Operations Web site.
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