Photo Roundup - April-June 2021

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A selection of coastal and ocean images and videos from across the USGS

USGS scientist collects water samples for contaminant analysis in the US Virgin Islands

USGS scientist collects water samples for contaminant analysis in the US Virgin Islands. Learn more about Contaminants Assessment in the Coral Reefs of the Virgin Islands. Public domain.

A scientist sits on a personal watercraft near a vegetated, marsh shoreline.

A USGS scientist sits on a personal watercraft (PWC) equipped with scientific equipment to collect bathymetry data - or the depth of the water - at locations of interest in Point Aux Chenes Bay, Mississippi. Credit: Chelsea Stalk, USGS. Public domain.

Biologist releases a Black Oystercatcher on Beach in Alaska

USGS Biologist Caitlin Marsteller releases a Black Oystercatcher after assisting with the collection of morphometric data and tagging. Data were collected from Black Oystercatchers as part of a new study to better understand migration strategies and movement ecology of the species. Learn more Seabirds and Forage Fish Ecology. Credit: Brian Robinson, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.)

View of the edge of calm water with a small wave breaking, with eelgrass growing out of sandy mud.

Partially submerged eelgrass bed at low tide in Fay Bainbridge Park on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Eelgrass is an underwater plant that is a common sight on Puget Sound beaches when the tide is out. Healthy eelgrass indicates that water clarity is high. Eelgrass roots stabilize coastal sediments, and eelgrass beds provide important habitat for fish, shellfish, and birds. Learn more: Puget Sound Priority Ecosystems Science - Credit: David Ayers, USGS. Public domain.

A sea otter with light-colored fur lies on its back in a blue-green ocean

A sea otter shows off its light, grizzled fur, a sign of aging in sea otters. Learn more: Population Biology and Behavior of Sea Otters. Credit: Joe Tomoleoni, USGS. Public domain.

A man in a wetsuit sits on a rock covered in seaweed and barnacles with calm waters in the background.

Researchers at the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, California study a wide variety of coastal hazards, including shoreline erosion, flooding, coastal processes, and the effects of climate change on coastlines. Pictured here is USGS oceanographer Kai Parker, who just joined PCMSC in 2020. Kai is working with the Coastal Climate Impacts team and the Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS) science team. Credit: Kai Parker, USGS. Public domain.

A scientist stands next to a large funnel-shaped piece of scientific equipment

Caitlin Reynolds of the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center secures a sediment trap, retrieved from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico on board the R/V Pelican. Sediment and foraminifera (forams) are caught in the large area at the top of the funnel, then collected in a jar at the bottom of the funnel. Foram shells incorporate information about their environment such as ocean chemistry, temperature, and salinity. They only live in the water column for a few weeks, and eventually die and sink to the bottom of the ocean (or into a sediment trap) and pile up in layers. This layering of sediment and forams on the ocean floor therefore creates a detailed record of environmental change. Learn how forams are used to study Climate and Environmental Change. Credit: Meaghan Faletti, USGS. Public domain.

Seafloor tripod equipped with oceanographic equipment

Seafloor tripod equipped with oceanographic equipment to be deployed offshore of Sandwich, MA , March 2021. Learn more about Massachusetts Integrated Coastal Studies (MICS). Credit: John Warner, USGS. Public domain.

A man, wearing safety gear and holding a pen, sits at a work station on a boat with a folder open in front of him.

Ocean engineer Gerry Hatcher, of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center (PCMSC), sits at a desk on board the USGS boat Sallenger. He and a team of scientists from PCMSC and sister team St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center are near Eastern Dry Rocks reef off the coast of Key West National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Gerry is keeping notes while the special camera system that he invented and developed is towed in the water.

The system is called “SQUID-5” (Structure-from-Motion Quantitative Underwater Imaging Device with 5 cameras). SQUID-5 is towed over an area of interest, in this case a coral reef ecosystem, to collect high-resolution georeferenced imagery that is used to make 3D maps of the seafloor.

These high-res maps allow the USGS to detect millimeter-scale changes in seafloor elevation and coral reef structure. This information can be used to help track the progress of restoration efforts being done by partners such as the NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary over the next two decades. Public domain.

Deploying anchor chain for an oceanographic buoy

USGS researchers Chris Moore and Mitchell Lemon took a trip on research vessel R/V Weatherbird in January of 2020 with the University of South Florida College of Marine Science as part of a study on carbon dioxide in the Gulf of Mexico. Carbon Dioxide, or CO2, is a greenhouse gas that can be absorbed by the ocean. Higher levels of CO2 can make the ocean more acidic and lead to negative effects on marine life. The Gulf of Mexico is home to diverse ecologically and economically important marine life, so it is important to understand how CO2 is absorbed into the water in this region.

To do this research, Chris and Mitch deployed instruments on a USF buoy that collects temperature, salinity, pH and CO2 data , as well as  other ocean chemistry information. The buoy can then send back information to the lab every hour. Each year, the gear needs to be switched out to validate the equipment and ensure that it continues to collect the most reliable data possible. This continuous stream of reliable ocean CO2 data can help scientists better understand how increases in CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere could potentially affect our oceans and the marine life that resides there.

Here, a researcher prepares to release the anchor and chain for a buoy that collects oceanographic data. The anchor will hold the buoy in place and prevent ocean currents or winds to displace it. The buoy is equipped with instrumentation to monitor temperature, salinity, CO2, pH, and other oceanographic information. Credit: Mitch Lemon, USGS. Public domain.