How do oil platforms-turned-artifical reefs support local coral reef biodiversity?
Two features that support marine biodiversity in the Texas Gulf are offshore oil platforms and the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS), a federally-protected coral reef ecosystem. As my first independent research project, I compared the benthic communities of these two habitats using photo software on previously collected ROV images. My project was part of an effort by FGBNMS scientists to determine if HI-389A, a decomissioned oil platform within sanctuary boundaries, could be regulated by Texas Parks and Wildlife as part of their Rigs-to-Reefs program. I found different community compositions between the man-made and natural habitats, with a higher amount of an invasive coral species (Tubastrea coccinea) on the oil platform.