Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) are coral communities that exist in the twilight zone (about 30 to 150 metres) on tropical reefs. Modern exploration tools, such as remote operated vehicles (ROVs), autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and deep technical diving equipment, can now be used to explore the marine life in these depths.
From 23 to 28 October 2010, a team of scientists from James Cook University, University of Queensland, the University of Sydney, Museum of Tropical Queensland and Reef HQ explored potential MCEs on three large atolls in the Coral Sea, Australia. These were the Flora and Holmes Reefs near Cairns. We used a Seabotix ROV and stereo cameras to record the marine life on the steep reef walls to depths of 150 metres.
As a keen diver and marine geologist, I helped collect the ship’s track navigation data so that we could locate precisely where the ROV and underwater cameras had been. We also collected coral cores from massive coral colonies which can then be used for trace chemistry analysis of the ocean climate during their growth.