A Better Understanding of Coral Reef Ecosystems

Pelagic predators such as these barracuda, Sphyraena qenie, are part of the coral reef ecosystem in the U.S. Line Islands (NOAA Photo by Kevin Lino).
A team of scientists have embarked from Hawai'i on a three-month survey of coral reef ecosystems at Johnston Atoll, the U.S. Phoenix Islands, the islands of American Samoa, and the U.S. Line Islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean. The overarching objective is to better understand the coral reef ecosystems of these areas, many of which are seldom explored. The research expedition is part of a regular monitoring program, conducted by the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), headquartered in Honolulu, Hawai'i. The expedition is supported by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program and involves extensive cooperation among NOAA scientists and research partners, including the University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Diego State University, and the Papahānaumaokuākea Marine National Monument.

The research expedition will be carried out from February 27 to May 24, 2012 aboard the NOAA ship Hi'ialakai. Under the leadership of Chief Scientists Dr. Jill Zamzow, Dr. Bernardo Vargas-Angél, and Jamison Gove, a diverse team of researchers will be conducting multidisciplinary coral reef ecosystem surveys, assessing the status of fishes, corals, algae, marine invertebrates, and the oceanographic conditions in which these organisms exist. The scientific data collected during the three-month research expedition will enable informed and effective implementation of ecosystem-based management and conservation strategies for coral reef ecosystems, helping to ensure their protection for generations to come.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Meet the Scientists

Chief Scientist
Ron Hoeke

As chief scientist, Ron is in charge of guidance and integrity of data collection efforts while at sea.

Fish Team
Paula Ayotte, Kaylyn McCoy, Marc Nadon, Kevin O'Brien

During the Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (RAMP) cruises, the fish team dives at up to 9 sites per day to assess fish diversity and abundance. Surveys take place at depths ranging from a few feet up to 100 feet. Two methods are used for fish surveys: stationary counts and belt transect surveys. Fish team members need to have an in-depth knowledge of Indo-Pacific fish taxonomy as they count and size hundreds of swirling fish and classify them in one of the 600 or so species recorded by these scientists.

Ron Hoeke, Polly Fisher-Pool, Tracey McDole, Noah Pomeroy, Oliver Vetter

The Oceanographic and Instrumentation program combines various monitoring platforms to measure and record ocean temperatures, salinity, wind and wave energy, tides and currents.
These monitoring platforms which include long-term moored observing stations with data telemetry, satellite-tracked driftin
g buoys, stationary Ecological Acoustic Recorders (EARs), subsurface instrumented moorings and shipboard sensors, are components of NOAA's Coral Reef Ecosystem Integrated Observing System (CREIOS). CREIOS operates in and around the coral reefs of the US-affiliated Pacific Islands.

Tow Team
Edmund Coccagna, Bonnie DeJoseph, Kevin Lino, Jason Helyer

The tow team survey shallow water habitats around each island, bank or reef. Surveys are conducted using pairs of divers towed 60 meters behind a SAFE boat. One diver quantifies the benthos while the other quantifies fish populations. In addition, a video camera is attached to one tow board to gather video data of the ocean floor, while a camera attached to the other tow board takes still images for future data analysis. click here to find out more

Benthic and Invertebrate Team
Kerry Grimshaw, Stephanie Schopmeyer, Sun Kim, Rodney Withall, Russell Reardon, Russell Moffitt, Cristi Richards

The benthic team is tasked with conducting surveys to describe benthic communities at each long-term monitoring Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) site. Our multidisciplinary team consists of up to seven SCUBA divers: two coral divers, who identify coral species, determine size-class distributions, and evaluate coral disease data using belt transects; one algae diver, who determines algal diversity and percent cover for algae and coral species using the line point intercept (LPI) method and takes quadrant photos to serve as a permanent record of benthic reef structure; two REA fish divers, who conduct fish surveys; and two invertebrate divers, who evaluate macroinvertebrate diversity, collect size-class distributions for target functional groups, such as urchins and clams, and install autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS) which serve as standardized settlement structures designed to determine cryptic invertebrate biodiversity. Additionally, we have one LPI diver who joins the independent fish team to collect coral and algal diversity and percent cover data at random, non-permanent sites. Data from all disciplines are collected along the same two 25 m transects to produce an integrated biological description of reef communities.

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