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  • Topic: Exploring the Undersea San Andreas Fault: Revealing the Past, Present, and Future at the Centennial of the Great 1906 Earthquake


Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) Office of the Science Director


FRAM Hab & Consv Eng. - 6
Topic: Exploring the Undersea San Andreas Fault: Revealing the Past, Present, and Future at the Centennial of the Great 1906 Earthquake
During this exploration, the first comprehensive high-resolution multi-beam sonar and seismic reflection survey of the Northern San Andreas Fault (NSAF) was completed. When combined, data from these two complementary geophysical surveys will provide an unprecedented high-resolution 3D visualization of the fault system. In addition, digital photographs and photomosaics obtained with a hovering autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) will provide the collaborative team of geologists and biologists with direct observation of the seafloor and associated biological communities at selected sites. Mapping and imaging the NSAF at geo-referenced spatial scales from kilometers to meters will support ongoing studies and discoveries on the nature of the NSAF and contribute to the assessment of marine habitats in the California Current Ecosystem. Finally, the exploration provides a case study and outreach opportunity for conducting a green oceanographic research project.The AUV imagery data from this project is archived with the AUV group at the NWFSC. The seafloor mapping data from this project is archived at Oregon State University in the Active Tectonics and Seafloor Mapping Lab, http://activetectonics.coas.oregonstate.edu/

Research Themes

Habitats to support sustainable fisheries and recovered populations
Healthy oceans, coastal waters, and riverine habitats provide the foundation for aquatic resources used by a diversity of species and society. Protecting marine, estuarine and freshwater ecosystems that support these species relies on science to link habitat condition/processes and the biological effects of restoration actions. The NWFSC provides the habitat science behind many management actions taken by NOAA Fisheries and other natural resource agencies to protect and recover aquatic ecosystems and living marine resources. The NWFSC also maintains a longstanding focus on toxic chemical contaminants, as a foundation for regional and national research on pollution threats to fisheries and protected resources.

Research Foci

Characterize relationships between habitat and ecosystem processes, climate variation, and the viability of organisms
Developing effective conservation and restoration strategies for species or populations requires a clear understanding of how ecosystem processes and climate change will influence the viability of organisms in the future. Key research needs include (1) evaluating the vulnerability of organisms and ecosystems to climate change and human impacts (e.g., fishing, pollution, land use), and (2) devising adaptation strategies that will help achieve conservation goals despite climate change and increasing human pressures. Understanding how climate change or trends in human impacts might influence organisms is based on an understanding of linkages between ecosystem processes, habitat conditions, and abundance, survival or demographics of organisms. This necessitates modeling influences of ecosystem processes on habitats and species, or developing models to examine influences of human pressures on population or ecosystem dynamics. With this foundation, vulnerability assessments can focus on understanding how interactions between climate change and human impacts influence vulnerability of species or populations. Adaptation strategies require knowledge of current conservation needs, predictions of how those needs might change as a result of climate change or future human impacts, and assessments of the robustness of alternative conservation strategies or techniques to climate trends.


habitat assessment
methods to improve habitat assessment
seafloor mapping
geophysical mapping of the seafloor or seafloor habitats


A Geophysical Investigation of the Offshore Portion of the Northern Segment of the San Andreas Fault on a “green research vessel”, AGU fall Meeting 2011.


None assigned


M. Elizabeth Clarke
Principal Investigator
W. Wakefield
Principal Investigator