Deep Sea Exploration to Advance Research on Coral, Canyon and Cold Seep Habitats

DEEP SEARCH is a 5-year project aimed at the exploration of the deep sea offshore of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. This study will reveal the amazing diversity of habitats that are present in our own backyard, including deep-water coral reefs and mounds, massive submarine canyons, and cold-seep communities that rely on the energy from natural gas rather than sunlight to fuel productivity. Stay tuned for updates as we learn more about these amazing species and ecosystems. 

Project Goal:

Explore potential offshore energy leasing areas to locate and understand deep-sea habitats and provide the best available science to protect sensitive biological communities.


Scope and Objectives:

1. Explore and characterize the biological communities of the study area

2. Examine the sensitivity of habitat-structuring fauna and associated communities to natural and anthropogenic disturbance

3. Describe the oceanographic, geological, and geochemical conditions associated with each habitat type

4. Model the distribution of habitats and fauna with respect to environmental conditions


Study Area:

Offshore Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia in water depths over 200 meters


Habitats in the Area:

Deep-sea coral reefs, deepwater coral gardens, natural-gas seeps, mussel beds, tubeworm bushes, bacterial mats, submarine canyons, rocky ledges, soft-sediment communities