CSUMB's Seafloor Mapping Lab helps with Point Lobos project

Visitors to Point Lobos State Marine Reserve are now able to visualize what the undersea world looks like, thanks in part to work by students and staff members of CSU Monterey Bay’s Seafloor Mapping Lab.

Data collected by the lab was used to create a 3D model of the underwater park, which helps visitors understand what lies beneath the sea. Until now, only divers could experience the mysterious underwater seascape of Point Lobos, with its kelp forests, schools of fish and marine mammals.

Dr. Kvitek and the KelpFlyThe museum-quality model was years in the making. In 2010, members of the Bay Area Underwater Explorers (BAUE) began a project to fill the gaps in the existing mapping data. It quickly became apparent their approach wasn’t going to work – the area to be mapped was simply too big.

They turned to CSUMB’s Seafloor Mapping Lab and its director, Dr. Rikk Kvitek, for help. The lab used the KelpFly, a hybrid airboat/160-horsepower Yamaha watercraft with an array of sonar equipment, to map the terrain with great detail and accuracy.

The data collected by the KelpFly was used to create a foam model, which served as a cast for the 800-pound sand-colored concrete version. The model is now on display adjacent to the Whalers Cove parking lot.

Gary Banta, a diver with BAUE, spearheaded the project and raised funds to finance it. He told the Carmel Pine Cone “my hope is that this model will be a window to this stunning reserve, allowing generations of visitors to experience its wonders.”

Dr. Kvitek has mapped more than 1,200 square kilometers of California’s coastal waters, providing topographical data of the seafloor extending three miles from the coast. The KelpFly, named for an insect that lives on kelp, allows him to gather data in areas just along the shore that his larger research vessels can’t access, such as Whalers Cove.

The $300,000 craft can maneuver in water as shallow as 18 inches. It features an armored hull that allows it to bounce off rocks and a flotation collar that makes it stable in surf.

Learn more about the Seafloor Mapping Lab

Read about Dr. Kvitek and the KelpFly