Underwater Explorations in Golden Gate Marine Protected Areas: Discovery and Monitoring of Submerged Nearshore Habitats

Latest update August 6, 2019 Started on April 26, 2019
sea

We will explore eelgrass and giant kelp habitats to document marine life and recovery of disturbed areas, as well as provide opportunity for visitors to discover the biodiversity in these amazing places.

April 26, 2019
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In The Field

Beach at Historic Lifeboat Station, Point Reyes State Marine Reserve, Point Reyes National Seashore


We were super excited to launch the ROV for the first time! We chose our first test run in the semi-protected waters off the beach immediately west of the Historic Lifeboat Station. We wanted to test and practice driving the ROV before the following week, when our staff at the Point Reyes National Seashore Association was scheduled to host a group of high school students to learn about elephant seals and observe in real time, the submerged environment around Chimney Rock. Elephant Seals haul out at Chimney Rock to molt this time of year, but luckily there were none on this beach that day so we had clear access. Our aim was to check out the patch of kelp offshore and see what the sea bottom around it looks like. Of course we hoped we would see some fish, or happen upon a seal swimming by! Our hopes partially came true as we saw a school of surfperch and pile perch swim past. These fish are common offshore of beaches with kelp nearby. Check them out on our video clip! We also saw a large elephant seal offshore from the next beach down, and though it seemed to look our way it did not come close. Seeing the kelp and stray blades of eelgrass swaying in the current back and forth was mesmerizing! The quality of the camera image was impressive, too! One challenge we noticed was that the kelp and eelgrass blades clogged the propellers. Every few minutes we pulled the ROV out and cleared the propellers manually. We hope to find a solution that minimizes that problem. The other main difficulty we had that day was the glare on the controller screen making it hard to see the view in front of the ROV. Moving to a new spot under the shade of the dock helped, but tangling debris was more of a problem there. After getting a few minutes of exploration, capturing some good video and learning how to maneuver the vehicle, we decided to call it a day, rinse off and pack up. It was a great first deployment!

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Undersea Exploration Near Chimney Rock

Mini ROV Dive Post First Dive June 14, 2019 12:05 pm to 1:45 pm Beach at Historic Lifeboat Station, Point Reyes State Marine Reserve, Point Reyes National Seashore We were super excited to launch the mini-ROV for the first time! We chose our first test run in the semi-protected waters off the beach immediately west of the Historic Lifeboat Station. We wanted to test and practice driving the ROV before the following week, when our staff at the Point Reyes National Seashore Association was scheduled to host a group of high school students to learn about elephant seals and observe in real time, the submerged environment around Chimney Rock. Elephant Seals haul out at Chimney Rock to molt this time of year, but luckily there were none on this beach that day so we had clear access. Our aim was to check out the patch of kelp offshore and see what the sea bottom around it looks like. Of course we hoped we would see some fish, or happen upon a seal swimming by! Our hopes partially came true as we saw a school of surfperch and pile perch swim past. These fish are common offshore of beaches with kelp nearby. Check them out on our video clip! We also saw a large elephant seal offshore from the next beach down, and though it seemed to look our way it did not come close. Seeing the kelp and stray blades of eelgrass swaying in the current back and forth was mesmerizing! The quality of the camera image was impressive, too! One challenge we noticed was that the kelp and eelgrass blades clogged the propellers. Every few minutes we pulled the ROV out and cleared the propellers manually. We hope to find a solution that minimizes that problem. The other main difficulty we had that day was the glare on the controller screen making it hard to see the view in front of the ROV. Moving to a new spot under the shade of the dock helped, but tangling debris was more of a problem there. After getting a few minutes of exploration, capturing some good video and learning how to maneuver the vehicle, we decided to call it a day, rinse off and pack up. It was a great first deployment!

Posted by Point Reyes National Seashore Association on Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Expedition Background

Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore are the jewels of open space and wilderness in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of the most biologically rich and diverse areas in the world, the coastal bays surrounding these national parks are protected waters where rich beds of eelgrass and macroalgae support habitat for numerous species of fish, invertebrates and birds. Who wouldn’t want to peer into these protected grassy meadows and kelp forests to observe the diversity of life in these critical habitats? Our underwater ROV will provide Marine Protected Area collaborators with direct observation of eelgrass habitats to document marine life and recovery of disturbed areas as well as provide opportunity for visiting students to see what it would be like to “fly” through the meadows, observing fish and invertebrates in real time while learning about the importance of eelgrass in marine ecosystems.


The Golden Gate Marine Protected Area Collaborative is excited to launch our science and education programming using the Open Explorer Trident ROV. Our Expedition partnership includes MPA Collaborative stakeholders including the Point Reyes National Seashore, Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, California Academy of Sciences, Point Reyes National Seashore Association, Shark Stewards, Greater Farallones Association, and the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. Our project is based on scientific research and marine and coastal education focused on eelgrass, kelp, fish and invertebrates within Drakes Estero State Marine Conservation Area, Point Reyes State Marine Reserve, Limantour de Estero State Marine Reserve, and Duxbury Reef State Marine Conservation Area, as well as Tomales and San Francisco Bay.

We are conducting long-term monitoring of eelgrass in Drakes Estero with aerial drones, scuba, and snorkel surveys, but adding the underwater ROV will greatly enhance our ability to monitor the changing health of the eelgrass beds and the associated fauna in the restoration sites and to communicate the results to students and the public. Future planned surveys in Tomales Bay (not an MPA) eelgrass and giant kelp beds in the Point Reyes Headlands State Marine Reserve will expose students to nearshore ecological observation and conservation in places that they would never otherwise have access to. As Point Reyes National Seashore hosts 2.5 million visitors annually, sharing ROV footage at park interpretive sites, in social media and Open Explorer expedition posts could potentially reach millions of people. Our youth education programs bring a thousand elementary through high school students each year to the Seashore for science immersion field trips and we recently implemented an eelgrass ecology class where students sample invertebrates and fish in eelgrass inside the Drakes Estero MPA. The ROV would be a great complement to these eelgrass science field trips. We expect our first launch in June will explore the underwater world of Drakes Bay Marine Reserve from the shore at the Historic Lifeboat Station with a group of youth visiting the park for a week-long summer science immersion program.

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This is so great, Leslie!

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