Overview of Deep-Sea Research

Interactions Between Deep-Sea Invertebrates and Fishes

By Brian Tissot

 Rockfish on Heceta Bank, Oregon. Photos: Mark Hixon

Rockfish on Heceta Bank, Oregon. Photos: Mark Hixon

Background and Summary

Effective management of marine resources requires the successful integration of rigorous scientific information, practical management strategies, and clear policy directives.  Dr. Tissot’s research is focused on the interface between biology, management, and policy and examines ecological interactions between habitat and commercially important marine fish and invertebrates and the role of the community in managing marine resources. Through collaboration with state, federal and international agencies he is involved in a range of activities including basic research, research with implications towards resource management, and environmental policy development. 

Groundfish populations (such as rockfish, lingcod and other bottom dwelling fishes) and their associated deep sea fisheries on the continental shelves of Washington, Oregon and California are at of long-standing concern. Working in collaboration with the NOAA Fisheries Service, Fish and Wildlife departments in WA OR, and CA, and several Universities and non-profits organizations, Dr. Tissot and his team are exploring, mapping, and quantifying groundfish habitats using submersibles at depths down to 3500 ft.  His work is specifically examining the role of deep sea invertebrates, especially cold water corals, and how they may be important as habitat (food, shelter, or other interactions) for commercially important fishes. Information from his work has been used to formulate management strategies for west coast bottom trawling, siting of wave energey prohects, and in the development of legislation in Congress.   

Dr. Tissot’s long-term goals are to develop a generalized understanding of linkages between science, management, and policy in order to develop stable and effective resource management strategies. These strategies include training students, scientists, managers and the general public to think holistically and develop collaborative partnerships to solve societal problems.  

 With NOAA Fish Habitat Science team Off Point Lobos,. 2007.

With NOAA Fish Habitat Science team Off Point Lobos,. 2007.

Principle Investigators:

Brian Tissot (Humboldt State University) 

Graduate Students:

  • Noelani Puniwai
  • Keri York
  • Jodi Pirtle
  • Jennifer Bright
  • Kaitlin Graiff
  • Jennifer Blaine
  • Camelia Bianchi
  • Dan Crowther
  • Katie Wrubel
  • Georgia Bennett

Undergraduate Students:

  • Kathy Greenwood
  • Jenny Krenzel
  • Rachael Biernbaum
  • Mike Lummio


  • Ed Bowlby – Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary 
  • Liz Clarke – NOAA Fisheries, Seattle, WA
  • Chris Goldfinger, Geology & Geophysics, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR.
  • Mark Hixon – University of Hawaii 
  • Milton Love – Univ. California Santa Barbara 
  • Rick Starr – California Sea Grant Extension, Moss Landing , CA 
  • Waldo Wakefield – NOAA Fisheries, Newport, OR
  • Mary Yoklavich – NOAA Fisheries, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Dan Howard -- Cordell Bank, National Marine Sanctuary
  • Sarah Henkel -- Oregon State University


  • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
  • California Sea Grant Program
  • Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary
  • NOAA National Undersea Research program
  • NOAA Ocean Exploration Program
  • NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NWFSC & SWFSC) 
  • NOAA Deep-Sea Coral Program
  • Packard Foundation

Media and blog posts:


>>> for reprints visit me on ResearchGate

  •  Hixon, M. A., B. N. Tissot, W. G. Percy. 1991. Fish Assemblages of Rocky Banks of the Pacific Northwest. Final Report, OCS Study 91-0052, U. S. Minerals Management Service, Camarillo, CA. 410 pp.
  • Hixon, M. A. and B. N. Tissot. 1992. Fish Assemblages of Rocky Banks of the Pacific Northwest. Final Report Supplement, OCS Study 91-0025, U. S. Minerals Management Service, Camarillo, CA. 128 pp.
  • Stein, D. L., B. N. Tissot, M. A. Hixon and W. A. Barss. 1992. Fish-habitat associations on a deep reef at the edge of the Oregon continental shelf. Fisheries Bulletin 90: 540-551.
  • Starr, R. M., D. S. Fox, M. A. Hixon, B. N. Tissot, G. Johnson and W. H. Barss. 1996. Comparison of submersible and acoustic estimates of fish density on a rocky bank. Fishery Bulletin 94: 113-123.
  • Nasby, N. Embley, R., Tissot, B.N, Hixon. M., Wright, D.J., Merle, S. and W.  Wakefield. 2002. Integration of historical groundfish habitat data with new high resolution remotely sensed data on Heceta Bank, Oregon. Fisheries Bulletin 100(4):739-751. 
  • Tissot, B. N., W. W. Wakefield, N.P.F. Puniwai, J. Pirtle, K.York and  J. E.R. Clemons.  2004. Abundance and distribution of structure-forming megafaunal invertebrates, including cold-water corals, on Heceta Bank, Oregon, 2000-2002. NOAA Technical Report, 48pp.
  • Aaby, A., D. J. Wright, B. N. Tissot. 2004. Case study of the ArcGIS marine data model: examining habitat utilization patterns of reef fish along the west coast of Hawaii. Proc. 24th Annual ESRI User Conference, San Diego, CA, Paper 1458. 
  • Wakefield, W.W., C.E. Whitmire, J.E.R. Clemons, B.N. Tissot. 2005. Fish habitat studies:  Combining high-resolution geological and biological data. In P. W. Barnes and J. P. Thomas, editors. Benthic habitats and the effects of fishing. American Fisheries Society, Symposium 41; 199-138. Bethesda, Maryland.
  • Tissot, B. N., M. M. Yoklavich, M. S. Love, K. York and M. Amend. 2006.  Benthic invertebrates that form habitat structures on deep banks off southern California, with special reference to deep sea coral. Fisheries Bulletin 104: 167-181.
  • Hixon, M. A. and B. N. Tissot. 2007. Comparison of trawled vs. untrawled mud seafloor assemblages of fishes and macroinvertebrates at Coquille Bank, Oregon. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 344: 23-34.
  • Tissot, B. N., M. A. Hixon and D. L. Stein, D. L. 2007. Habitat-based submersible assessment of groundfish assemblages at Heceta Bank, Oregon from 1988 to 1990. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 352:  50-64.
  • Whitmire, C.E., Embley, R.W., Wakefield, W.W., Merle, S.G., and Tissot, B.N. 2007. A quantitative approach for using multibeam sonar data to map benthic habitats, In Todd, B.J., and Greene, H.G., eds., Mapping the Seafloor for Habitat Characterization: Geological Association of Canada, Special Paper 47, p. 111-126.
  • Starr, R., M. Yoklavich and B. Tissot. 2008. Monitoring MPAs in deep water off central California: 2007 IMPACT submersible baseline survey. California Sea Grant College Program Publication No. T-067. 21pp
  • Tissot, B. N. 2008. Video analysis, experimental design, and database management of submersible-based habitat studies. In J.R. Reynolds and H.G. Greene (eds). Marine Habitat Mapping Technology for Alaska, Alaska Sea Grant College Program, Fairbanks, AK.  CD-ROM. doi:10.4027/mhmta.2008.11
  • Tissot, B. N., W. W. Wakefield, M. A. Hixon and J. E. R. Clemons. 2008. Twenty years of fish-habitat studies on Heceta Bank, Oregon. In J.R. Reynolds and H.G. Greene (eds). Marine Habitat Mapping Technology for Alaska, Alaska Sea Grant College Program, Fairbanks, AK.  CD-ROM. doi:10.4027/mhmta.2008.15
  • Tissot, B, N. 2009. The Importance of Deep-Sea Coral Communities. Wings, Spring 2009. pp. 24-28. The Xerces Society, Portland, OR
  • Tissot, B. N. and S. Rooney. 2013. Benthic Habitats in Bering Sea Submarine Canyons. Marine Conservation Alliance, Technical Report. 53 pp.


  • 2014-2016. Oceanographic context for baseline characterization and future evaluation of MPAs along California's North Coast. California Sea Grant (Ocean Science Trust). co-PI    , $118,000
  • 2012-13.  Benthic Habitats in Bering Sea Submarine Canyons. Marine Conservation Alliance, PI, $40,000
  • 2011-12. Identification of sponges and Corals from Grays canyon collected with an AUV. NOAA, NW Fisheries Science Center    Contract, PI, $38,800
  • 2010-11. Deep-sea corals of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Olympic Coast Bank National Marine Sanctuary, PI, $10,000
  • 2010-12. Science support for wave energy benthic Impacts study. BOEM (through OSU),  Contract, $24,280
  • 2010-12. Science Support for the Oregon Marine Reserve Process, Packard Foundation, Co-PI, $12,210
  • 2007-08. Baseline surveys of deep-water demersal communities in and near central California MPAs , California Sea Grant (Ocean Science Trust), Co-PI, $250,000
  • 2006-07. Development of a geodatabase of structure-forming invertebrates, with special reference to deep-sea corals, from previously completed submersible dives.  National Undersea Research Program, Co-PI, $16,148
  • 2005-06. Distribution and abundance of deep-sea corals off  California.NOAA, Coral Reef Conservation Program, PI, $18,000
  • 2004-05. Megafaunal Invertebrates of Cordell Bank. Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Contractor, $19,890
  • 2004-07. Macroinvertebrates and associated habitats from submarine canyons off central California. Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation, Contractor, $44,919
  • 2002-04. Fish-habitat associations on Heceta Bank, Oregon. NOAA, NW Fisheries Science Center, Contractor, $48,800
  • 2002-05. Macroinvertebrates and associated habitats in the Cowcod Conservation Areas off southern California. NOAA, SW Fisheries Science Center, Contractor, $70,063
  • 2002-03. Importance of basket stars as essential fish habitat on the Oregon continental shelf. Murdock Charitable Trust, Partners in Science Program,  PI, $14,000
  • 2001-02. Ocean exploration off the west coast of the U.S.: A voyage of discovery to unexplored marine habitats in the northeast Pacific - completing the Lewis and Clark legacy. NOAA, Ocean Exploration , Co-PI, $855,000
  • 1999-2001. Combining historical data, high resolution seafloor Imagery, and new survey and analysis techniques in fisheries habitat studies off Oregon. NOAA, National Undersea Research Program, Co-PI, $350,000