The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation works with individual sanctuaries, academic partners, and other organizations to support research, monitoring, response, and exploration cruises within the National Marine Sanctuary System. These cruises can focus on a wide range of topics including long-term water quality monitoring, ROV exploration, and coral surveying. They typically involve team members going out on the water for days or weeks at a time to monitor the health of ecosystems, document ecosystem’s response to change and inform restoration efforts, and explore new areas and habitats for expansion consideration/protection. The Foundation supports these cruises by funding various aspects, gathering supplies and equipment, and mobilizing ROVs. It also helps contract out partners to provide divers or other professionals that may be needed.
- Flower Gardens – As one of the longest-running coral reef monitoring programs, the Long Term Coral Monitoring Program has made Flower Garden Banks NMS a pulse point or sentinel site in the Gulf of Mexico that provides baseline information and insights on repetitive patterns and trends versus isolated incidents to inform management and foster solutions. The Foundation has provided support for the Flower Garden Banks NMS annual Long-Term Monitoring program at East and West Flower Garden Banks since 2011. The program has provided a 29-year dataset tracking the health of the coral reef habitat within long term monitoring study sites at the East and West Flower Garden Banks.
- American Samoa – NOAA Fisheries Ecosystem Science Division (ESD) conducts regular surveys throughout American Samoa and other U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands. They have developed an intensive survey protocol that is now based on a stratified random design to monitor changes in benthic cover, coral demography, and fish diversity and biomass at the island scale. In March 2015, the first expanded surveys were conducted during the American Samoa Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (ASRAMP) cruise, with 2 days of additional focused survey effort in sanctuary management areas around Tutuila. These surveys, funded through the Foundation, marked a new partnership with ESD and the sanctuary. This partnership continued for the 2018 ASRAMP cruise which repeated the survey effort in the sanctuary management areas. These intensive monitoring surveys provide invaluable information on how the fish and coral populations, reef health, oceanographic properties, and climate change indicators have changed over the past 3 years. This type of long-term data is invaluable for successful sanctuary management and adds to a large set of ecological data that spans islands and archipelagos across the Pacific Ocean. With each expedition, the data set grows stronger and more valuable for evaluating changes to coral reefs over time and across regions.