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Underwater Exploration

Exploration and Encounters in Santa Monica Bay

 

The future is in the hands of those who explore…and from all the beauty they discover while crossing perpetually receding frontiers, they develop for nature and for humankind an infinite love. – Jacques Yves Cousteau, Oceanographer

The Bay Foundation will be one of the first non-profits to employ innovative technologies to explore underwater ecosystems and support conservation and restoration of our coastal resources.  Remotely operated underwater vehicles, once only available to agencies and universities, now allow everyone from children to scientists the opportunity to experience and understand the ocean by capturing high-resolution images and videos of the seafloor.  TBF’s project will focus on inaccessible underwater habitats in Santa Monica Bay, sharing recordings of these beautiful and fragile ecosystems vulnerable to climate change, while filling an important scientific data gap in our region.

This exploration program is a unique opportunity to provide powerful information about underwater habitats to the community and to serve as a window of exploration for Los Angeles and the southern California region.  Ocean stewardship and conservation begins with understanding, and with over 10 million local residents and 50 million visitors to Los Angeles’ beaches every year, this project presents a valuable opportunity to share information and inspire curiosity about our underwater world.

ROV Camp with the Ocean School - August 2016

ROV Camp with the Ocean School – August 2016

Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles (ROVs)

Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) are versatile underwater robots that are research and educational tools allowing enhanced exploration and the collection of far-ranging robust scientific data.  There are many innovative ways to expand our understanding of the ocean and coastal waters, and ROVs represent a cost-effective investigatory tool.  With significant technological expansion in the last decade, cameras and sensors have evolved to become higher quality, with a simple application.  High-definition video footage will provide a safe, unique view of a previously-unexplored underwater world.  Specifically, the ROV will be used to supplement marine habitat monitoring efforts in seagrass beds and other habitats in Santa Monica Bay.  The ROV presents a unique prospect to use newly-available technology to share science and monitoring efforts with the public, promoting educational opportunities through videos and photographs.

Seagrass Beds

Seagrasses, such as eelgrass and surfgrass, are underwater flowering plants that live in shallow waters.  Seagrasses form beds and meadows that grow in bays, coves, tidal creeks, and estuaries.  These underwater meadows are a haven for fish, crabs, and other wildlife, and contribute significantly to local economies through recreational and commercial fisheries.  They provide a protected nursery habitat, improve water quality, retain sediment, protect the shoreline from erosion, and are viewed in recent literature as an important carbon and nutrient sink.  Over 90% of seagrass habitats have been lost in California, and the expanse and health of seagrasses in Santa Monica Bay are poorly understood.  Thus, a better understanding of the condition, persistence, and presumed expansion of sea grasses in the Bay is an important data gap to address.