Deep-sea Coral Collection Protocols

Here’s a short list of 21 things you can do with a deep sea coral.

1. Raise awareness of deep-sea habitats
2. Display in a museum (e.g. Smithsonian NMNH)
3. Make a GIS database (Etnoyer and Morgan 2003, 2005)
4. Make photographs for books and pamphlets (Glover and Earle 2004)
5. Make jewelry
6. Investigate branching patterns (Sanchez et al 2004)
7. Identify to species level
8. Perform SEM microphotography
9. Population genetics (Baco-Taylor, 2005)
10. Global biogeography (Cairns, in press)
11. Estimate biomass in-situ (Belko, 2004)
12. Define protein structure (Ehrlich et al 2006)
13. Study reproduction (Brooke, 2005)
14. Deep-sea dendrochronology (Grigg 1985, Roark et al 2005, Andrews et al 2005)
15. Detect climate change in the ocean (Adkins 2006)
16. Designate essential fish habitat ( Reed 2002, Bowlby et al in prep)
17. Test hypotheses of functional habitat (Auster 2005)
18. Put a video on You Tube (
19. Make a home for crabs
20. Draw parallels with shallow corals (Etnoyer 2005, 2006)
21. Have an art show (E. Hochberg and B. Horvath, Santa Barbara Museum)

Deep-sea corals are incredibly useful for conducting scientific investigations and raising public awareness. Geologists, biologists, ecologists, chemists, geneticists, historians and marine managers all find something unique and different hailing for these poorly known deep water relatives of shallow scleractinian and gorgonian corals. However, each one of these disciplines need their samples to be collected and preserved in a different way. Museums want the whole colony cleaned and dried. Taxonomists and geneticists need only a few inches of tissue.

That’s why the good folks at NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration, NOAA Office of Habitat Conservation, and the Census of Marine Life Seamounts Project (CenSeam) came together to support the Deep Sea Coral Collection Protocols. These protocols were designed so everyone from the fishermen to the managers and the scientists can collect a sample that’s useful to many different disciplines. Marine invertebrate collection protocols are well known within some institutions but, until now, there were no publicly available, multi-institutional, peer-reviewed methodologies describing how to collect deep-sea coral samples to meet archival standards. The resulting document is a synthesis of field experience from deep coral researchers, designed to build our national capacity to document deep-sea coral diversity.

The document is available from NOAA at the link here, and from CenSeam at the link here.

Peter Etnoyer (397 Posts)

PhD candidate at Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi and doctoral fellow Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies.

2 Replies to “Deep-sea Coral Collection Protocols”

  1. 22. Advocate for and support deep sea coral protection in the reauthorization of the Magnuson Act and then follow its implementation (Marine Conservation Biology Institute, Oceana).

    23. Advocate for and support deep sea coral protection on the high seas (Deep Sea Conservation Coalition).

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