St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
Benthic community composition, topographic relief, areal extent, and temporal stability are critical factors that contribute to the value of a given marine habitat. With the emergence of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as a priority management tool for protecting coral reef resources, knowledge of these essential habitat components is paramount for designing effective strategies for the management of marine reserves. For many MPAs, detailed information on benthic habitat components is sparse or not available.
To facilitate benthic mapping over large areas, yet still acquire high resolution images, USGS scientists developed the Along-Track Reef Imaging System (ATRIS), which has both deep and shallow configurations. Deep ATRIS is a towed vehicle carrying a high-speed digital camera that is capable of reaching depths of 25 m. Shallow ATRIS is a boat-mounted system that utilizes the same digital camera attached to a movable pole. Both ATRIS configurations will be deployed in Dry Tortugas National Park (DRTO) to fill information gaps in the spatial coverage of existing habitat maps.
A secondary effort is to investigate the habitat requirements of threatened and endangered sea turtles within the DRTO. Relatively little is known about the habitat requirements or movements of juvenile sea turtles of any species in their aquatic environment. Similarly, knowledge of the ecology and movements of adult sea turtles using remote U.S beaches, such as those in the Dry Tortugas, is also limited. Fine-scale habitat data collected with ATRIS will be integrated with acoustic and satellite telemetry data from tagged green, hawksbill, and loggerhead sea turtles. The merged data sets will allow scientists to identify and characterize specific habitats used for foraging, grazing, and transitting into and out of DRTO. This information is critical for developing Federal recovery plans for all three sea turtle species.
Capture-recapture and satellite- and acoustic-tracking techniques are used to determine the amount of time endangered sea turtles spend in and around the various habitats and zones of the Park. Blood and tissue samples are also collected to gain important diet and genetic material, which reveal connections between sea turtles in Dry Tortugas National Park and others sampled previously at various locations throughout south Florida and the Caribbean. Currently, Dry Tortugas loggerheads represent a genetically distinct subpopulation. Individual sea turtles in several life stages are present in the Tortugas, and work is underway to determine whether individuals of the three species are resident year-round or only use the Park periodically.
Hart, K.M., Zawada, D.G., Fujisaki, I., and Lidz, B.H., 2013, Habitat use of breeding green turtles Chelonia mydas tagged in Dry Tortugas National Park: Making use of local and regional MPAs. Biological Conservation, 161, 142-154.
Lidz, B.H., and Zawada, D.G., 2013, Possible Return of Acropora cervicornis at Pulaski Shoal, Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida. Journal of Coastal Research, 29, 256-271.
Pawlitz, R., Hart, K.M., and Zawada, D.G., 2013, Sea Turtles Benefit From Marine Protected AreasStudy offers first look at green sea turtle habitat use in the Dry Tortugas National Park. U.S. Geological Survey NewsWave. (2.6 MB PDF)
Hart K.M., Fujisaki, I., and Sartain, A.R., 2012, Chapter 5: Use of Dry Tortugas National Park by threatened and endangeredmarine turtles, in Implementing the Dry Tortugas National Park Research Natural Area Science Plan – The 5-Year Report, National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tallahassee, Florida, 80 pp. (8.8 MB PDF)
Hart K.M., Sartain A.R., Fujisaki I., Pratt H.L. Jr., Morley D., and Feeley M.W., 2012, Home range, habitat use, and migrations of hawksbill turtles tracked from Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, USA: Marine Ecology Progress Series, 457:193-207.
Zawada, D.G., 2011, Reef Topographic Complexity, in Hopley, D. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Modern Coral Reefs: Structure, Form, and Process, 902-906.
Hart, K.M., 2010, Use of protected areas by threatened and endangered marine turtles in the Dry Tortugas Pg:12-13, in: Hallac, D and J. Hunt, editors. Implementing the Dry Tortugas National Park Research Natural Areas Science Plan: the 3-year report. South Florida Natural Resources Center, Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks, Homestead, FL, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tallahassee, FL. 37 pp.
Hart K.M., Zawada D.G., Fujisaki I., and Lidz B.H., 2010, Inter-nesting habitat-use patterns of loggerhead sea turtles: enhancing satellite tracking with benthic mapping: Aquat. Biol. 11:77-90. (3.3 MB PDF)
Zawada, D.G., and Hart, K.M., 2010, Detailed seafloor habitat mapping to enhance marine-resource management: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2010–3090, 2 p.
Zawada, D.G., and Brock, J.C., 2009, A multiscale analysis of coral reef topographic complexity using lidar-derived bathymetry: Journal of Coastal Research, SI(53), 6–15. (3.6 MB PDF)
Carnahan, E.A., Hoare, A.M., Hallock, P., Lidz, B.H., and Reich, C.D., 2008, Distribution of heavy metals and foraminiferal assemblages in sediments in Biscayne Bay, Florida, USA: Journal of Coastal Research, v. 24, no. 1, p. 159-169.
Hart, K.M., 2008, Sea Turtles in the Dry Tortugas: Tracking Movements of Endangered Species in Florida's Coral-Reef Habitats: USGS Sound Waves 111:1-3.
Hart, K.M., 2008, Tracking sea turtles in the Everglades: United States Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Bulletin 33(3):26-29
Shinn, E.A., Ogden, J.C., Lidz, B.H., and Keller, B., 2008, Shifting Baselines of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary: Published in cooperation with the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, Florida Institute of Oceanography, U.S. Geological Survey, Florida Keys Marine Lab, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of National Marine Sanctuaries; available from co-authors as a brochure, and online.
Zawada, D.G., Thompson, P.R., and Butcher, J., 2008, A new towed platform for the unobtrusive surveying of benthic habitats and organisms: Revista de Biologia Tropical – International Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation, v. 56, supplement 1, p. 51-63. (5.5 MB PDF)