NEWS RELEASE, 8/9/99
UC Berkeley biologist to spend 10 days under the ocean to study light and creatures in Florida's coral reefs
By Robert Sanders, Public Affairs
Florida Keys -- A six-person team that includes University of California, Berkeley biologist Roy Caldwell will descend today (Monday, August 9) into the undersea laboratory Aquarius for a 10-day study of the quality of light under the ocean surface.
The entire trip will be recorded by a Web camera and made available through the internet at http://www.uncwil.edu/nurc/aquarius/, beginning Aug. 9.
Aquarius sits 63 feet under the surface in a sand patch adjacent to deep coral reefs in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. It is used as a base for diving expeditions, and has all the comforts of home: six bunks, a shower and toilet, instant hot water, a microwave, trash compactor, and a refrigerator even air conditioning and computers linked back to shore by wireless telemetry.
During their 10-day sojourn, Caldwell and his colleagues will be looking for ways to distinguish healthy from unhealthy coral. By measuring the distribution of ultraviolet, visible and polarized light throughout the day and across various habitats, they hope to identify specific characteristics of healthy, marginal and disturbed reefs, based on reflected colors and images.
"We hope to get a handle on coral bleaching and how temperature and light affect that," Caldwell said.
A custom-built instrument will be used to take ultraviolet and infrared images, and a new low-light imaging system for monitoring the reef at night will be tested. In addition, several invertebrates and fishes will be monitored and correlated with changing light conditions during dawn and twilight, the periods when many species begin or end their activity periods.
Caldwell, an expert on marine invertebrates called stomatopods or mantis shrimp, plans to use the opportunity to study the creature's underwater vision. (See aquanaut profile on Caldwell.)
Chair and professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, Caldwell was a crew member on a previous Aquarius trip four years ago, during which he and his crew members looked at the effects of polarized light on fish and invertebrates.
Aquarius is owned and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Undersea Research Program. The program is administered and operated by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, through their National Undersea Research Center.
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