FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jana Goldman, Mark Ward
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs
Undersea Lab Will Host Astronauts, Scientists, Students
Sports fans mark the arrival of spring with baseball's first pitch, but for many marine biologists the first signs of spring include the start of undersea missions aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Aquarius, an underwater ocean laboratory where scientists live and work on the seafloor.
The lab's season opener runs from April 15-24, and includes an all-female science team. Aquarius, the nation's only "innerspace" station is operated by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) and is located in NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
This year's first mission is led by State University of New York at Buffalo biologist Dr. Mary Alice Coffroth. Coffroth will be joined by her doctoral candidate Tonya Shearer, Leanne Rutten a master's student at Florida International University, and Dione Swanson, a doctoral candidate at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
During their 10 days beneath
the sea, the scientists will measure the size and condition of
corals. They will also collect tiny coral samples for DNA profiling
(similar to DNA fingerprinting), which will help determine how
coral populations grow and sustain themselves, providing information
for management and preservation of fragile coral reefs in Florida.
Aquarius will also undertake
several educational and outreach projects this year including
a student writing contest (where the winning essayist will enjoy
an underwater tour of Aquarius); a visit by representatives from
the Girl Scouts of America, and many interactive video links
with science centers, aquaria and museums throughout the country.
Throughout each Aquarius mission, expedition journals, photos,
and live undersea webcam views of the lab and surrounding area
along with detailed program information will be available on
the Aquarius Web site at http://www.uncwil.edu/nurc/aquarius.