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Final cruise plan, Islands in the Stream 2001
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    The Islands in the Stream expedition explored protected and unprotected deep water coral reefs and hard-bottom communities throughout the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic regions. Historically studied as isolated environments, scientists made discoveries that helped link these deep water communities (or "islands") that lie beneath the Yucatan, Loop and Gulf Stream currents (i.e., the 'stream'). The voyage also helped to document pieces of our maritime heritage and engaged the public through numerous education and outreach events. Islands in the Stream was a three-month scientific expedition to marine protected areas and other habitats being considered for protection from offshore of Belize in Central America to North Carolina's continental shelf. 'Islands' are the coral reefs and hard-bottom (also called 'hard substrate') biological communities found along the course of a massive "stream" of ocean currents connecting the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the western Atlantic off North America. This expedition emphasized habitat characterization and an understanding of these islands' 'connection' as parts of an interrelated ecosystem. Though separated by large expanses of ocean water, the fishes, corals, and invertebrates common to these islands demonstrated that the health and vitality of "downstream" islands are linked closely to those located 'upstream.' The expedition was conducted in two major segments: The Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico Expedition (from Belize to the Dry Tortugas at the tip of the Florida Keys) and the South Altantic Bight Expedition (from Oculina Bank Reserve, off Florida's Atlantic Coast, to three sites off the North Carolina continental (NOAA Ocean Explorer's home page).

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