MOREHEAD CITY, CARTERET COUNTY -

A group of divers lead by Marine Ecologist and University of North Carolina Ph.D. student Avery Paxton are diving deep under the waves to study 32 dive sites off the coast of North Carolina.

The sites are submerged under 40 to 100 feet of water. Some of the sites are shipwrecks,concrete pipes, and bridge spans. Others are natural reefs on the ocean floor.

The divers use clipboards and cameras to document their dives. They also use instruments to measure depth and temperature.

"It's really important that we understand the temperature fluctuation at this site because that could influence the fish that we find on them throughout the year." says Paxton.

The temperature loggers used in the study are left down on the reefs. This keeps a record of the hourly temperature changes in the ocean at that spot for days, weeks, even years.

Paxton and her team then use that information and couple it with their pictures and notes to see what fish and marine life thrive at the reefs, and what can boost or drop population.

Paxton says you can see a big change in wildlife from season to season.

"One of the last times we were out there was in the middle of winter we were wearing dry suits and it was 50 degrees... but now it's warmed up a lot and we are seeing a lot of growth of the macro algae and a lot of the tropical fish are coming back to the sites." says Paxton.

Information from Paxton's study could eventually be used by other scientists, builders and fisherman to decide which areas should be protected or developed.

deep and include natural hard-bottom reefs, which are exposed rocks and consolidated sediment, as well as artificial reefs, including shipwrecks, concrete pipes, and bridge spans. The goal of our research is to understand the relationship between habitat complexity and fish communities, as well as sediment dynamics and invertebrate prey communities. Specifically, we are determining how recreationally and commercially important fish, such as those in the snapper-grouper complex, may use high-relief hard-bottom differently from low-relief pavements. This research is important for the local community because it will help enhance fisheries resources. 

 

Acknowledgements: This research is supported by funding from a Coastal Recreational Fishing License Grant.

 We conduct year-round diving surveys on sixteen offshore, hard-bottom reefs in Onslow Bay. The sites range from 40 - 100 feet deep and include natural hard-bottom reefs, which are exposed rocks and consolidated sediment, as well as artificial reefs, including shipwrecks, concrete pipes, and bridge spans. The goal of our research is to understand the relationship between habitat complexity and fish communities, as well as sediment dynamics and invertebrate prey communities. Specifically, we are determining how recreationally and commercially important fish, such as those in the snapper-grouper complex, may use high-relief hard-bottom differently from low-relief pavements. This research is important for the local community because it will help enhance fisheries resources. 

 

Acknowledgements: This research is supported by funding from a Coastal Recreational Fishing License Grant.