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Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (SkIO) and Old Dominion University oceanographers will complete the first part of an intensive survey Aug. 14 in their attempt to learn how converging fronts during the summer and winter months attract marine mammals such as the bottle-nosed dolphin to Cape Hatteras. The second survey will take place in January 2005.

Dana Savidge, associate professor at SkIO, part of the University System of Georgia, leads the investigation with Jay Austin, research assistant professor in ODU's Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Duke University, the University of North Carolina and the National Marine Fisheries Service are also participating in the study funded by the National Science Foundation.

Aboard ODU's research vessel the R/V Fay Slover, Austin will compile high-resolution data on the temperature, salinity and current distributions in southern Cape Hatteras over a two-week period. Marine mammal observers from Duke University will be on board to correlate mammal sightings with oceanographic structure.

Additional ODU participants include Ann Gargett, professor of oceanography, Chris Powell, marine electronics technician, R/V Fay Slover Captain Richard Cox and First Mate Laura Gibson; and students Teresa Garner, Shuang Huang and Mark Santana.

The Cape Hatteras region is important oceanographically as it is the area where the Gulf Stream separates from the continental slope to the deep ocean. Southward-flowing continental shelf water from the Middle Atlantic Bight converges here with northward-flowing continental shelf water from the South Atlantic Bight. Although it is believed the winter thermal front attracts the bottle-nosed dolphin, the summer front is not well understood.

For more information go to www.whoi.edu/science/PO/hatterasfronts/.

This article was posted on: August 4, 2004

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