Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
The main objective of this expedition is to characterize an unexplored, deep-water region of basaltic rocky reef that resides southeast of Davidson Seamount, within the borders of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) to characterize habitat, species, and communities. Although extensive previous ROV dives have occured on the seamount proper, there is deep rocky habitat southeast of the seamount that could harbor additional communities of corals and sponges. This area was previously mapped in better details by EV Nautilus, revealing ridge-like features and several domes comprised of volcanic rock.
Davidson Seamount is an inactive volcanic undersea mountain habitat off the coast of central California, and is considered to be an area of special national significance. One of the largest known seamounts in U.S. waters, the seamount has been called "an oasis in the deep" in an otherwise flat seafloor, hosting large coral forests, vast sponge fields, crabs, deep-sea fishes, shrimp, basket stars, and high numbers of rare and unidentified benthic species. Recent research suggests that this pristine area may be necessary for maintaining healthy coastal populations in the MBNMS, and it is important to characterize the range of these populations on adjacent hard substrate habitat.