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Sanctuary to Dive Into Biodiversity Project

contact: Anne Smrcina, 781-545-8026, ext. 204 

This Friday a team of divers from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, in collaboration with local researchers, will launch a three-day exploration of the diversity of marine life right off our coastline, from microscopic zooplankton to giant endangered whales.

These voyages form the ocean component of "Biodiversity Days," a state-sponsored celebration of natural life on land and in the water that runs from June 9-11. The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, a co-sponsor of the event, will be documenting the species that inhabit the marine waters off the Commonwealth’s coast. The sanctuary is an 842-square-mile stretch of ocean at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay that has been designated as being of special national significance.

"In order to protect the living resources of the sanctuary and develop appropriate educational materials, we first have to know what’s out there," says Anne Smrcina, the sanctuary’s education coordinator. "Our biodiversity dive trips are intended to heighten awareness among researchers and the public alike on the kinds of species that inhabit our coastal ocean."

On all three "Biodiversity Days" (weather permitting), the dive team will take still photos and video footage of the creatures they find, as well as sample selective species. Scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, the National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, and the National Marine Fisheries Service will be standing by to identify the samples and images. Findings will be added to the list of organisms being compiled at the Sanctuary and at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.

On Friday the 9th, United Sates Geological Survey scientists aboard the NOAA Research Vessel FERREL will complete a week of sediment characterization studies in and around the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary using a variety of sampling and imaging techniques.

Video footage from the FERREL and the Sanctuary dive team’s vessel, the HAWK, will be available to the media. Reporters are invited to join an all-day research cruise aboard the HAWK; however, space is limited. Please contact the sanctuary for more information.

Biodiversity Days are just part of the ongoing research and education in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. A series of research cruises this summer using the NOAA Ship FERREL and the RV CONNECTICUT will explore ocean biodiversity to greater depths.

The Gerry E. Studds/Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is one of 12 ocean and coastal areas designated for its special national significance. Headquarters for the sanctuary is in Scituate, Mass. The National Marine Sanctuary Program is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce through the National Ocean Service.



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