On a Deep SEARCH for Science

Sub title
Exploring deep-sea ecosystems to inform future offshore energy and mineral development decisions in the Atlantic.


Lophelia colony. Image courtesy of Brooke et al. 2005, NOAA-OER Florida Deep Corals.
Lophelia colony. Image courtesy of Brooke et al. 2005, NOAA-OER Florida Deep Corals.

Since 2017, the Deep Sea Exploration to Advance Research on Coral/Canyon/Cold seep Habitats (Deep SEARCH) study has explored the deep-sea ecosystems of the U.S. Mid- and South Atlantic. Deep SEARCH’s primary goal is to help BOEM better understand and predict the location of various seafloor communities off the U.S. southeastern coast that may be vulnerable to disturbance from resource development activities.

The study area encompasses a variety of habitat types, including submarine canyons, coldwater coral mounds and gardens, methane seeps, and soft sediments. The study will provide baseline information on the region to help inform BOEM’s future offshore energy and mineral development decisions, especially those that could affect sensitive habitat like deep-sea coral.

Deep SEARCH has already paid dividends. Initial study findings revealed the area to be a much more complex and vibrant ecosystem than was previously known. In August 2018, scientists observed extensive reefs of Lophelia pertusa, a deep-sea stony coral in water off South Carolina, growing in waters deeper and further offshore than expected. 

Collecting this type of data improves scientists’ understanding of the interconnectedness of important underwater habitats and ensures that BOEM has the best available science to help inform its offshore energy and marine mineral policy decisions.

Deep SEARCH is a multi-agency, multi-year interdisciplinary study funded through an interagency partnership between BOEM, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey with sponsorship by the National Oceanographic Partnerships Program. 

Read more about Deep SEARCH in ECO magazine.

Follow DEEP SEARCH on social media at #OceanDeepSearch and on the web at https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/19deepsearch/welcome.html.

For BOEM’s study profile, visit https://opendata.boem.gov/BOEM-ESP-Ongoing-Study-Profiles-2019-FYQ2/BOEM-ESP-AT-17-06.pdf.

For more information about NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, visit https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/

For more information on this and other USGS deep-sea coral expeditions, visit the DISCOVRE web page

-- BOEM --

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is responsible for America’s offshore energy and mineral resources. The bureau promotes energy independence, environmental protection and economic development through responsible, science-based management of energy and mineral resources on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.