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.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Through the eyes of a towed-diver

With a couple of transit days ahead of us, we sail on towards Guam. We are busy writing a cruise report summarizing our data… and catching up on sleep! The underwater environment at Wake was amazing to behold with vibrant corals and healthy fish populations, highlighted of course by the appropriately named Bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum)! The tow team was able to survey around the whole atoll and although it was all unbelievable, our favorite portions of the island were the western and southern regions.

The western forereef of Wake is characterized by fabulous coral cover and a steep slope vanishing into the crystal blue depths. We towed this area first thing in the morning and with the sun low in the sky, the lighting underwater was remarkable. Despite seeing some small sharks and other larger fish like the impressive Humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) we found ourselves repeatedly glancing into the shallows and watching HUGE schools of Bumphead parrotfish, chomping on the reef!

Following our tows on the west side we headed south where the reef changed from continuous stretches of hard bottom to beautiful patch reefs separated by rubble flats and sand channels. Again, the visibility was incredible and we could almost make out the SAFEBOAT which was about 180 feet in front of us.

The southern forereef is littered with wreckage from WWII. Anchors, chains, parts of ships, and what looked like parts of an old BOMB! A huge school of Bigeye Jacks, Caranx sexfasciatus, paid us a visit at the end of one of our tows and they were still around when the next team of divers got in the water which made for some great photos before the survey got underway!

1 comment:

  1. J - Terrific article. Sounds like you guys had a great time and saw even more BOMU than we saw the last time we were there. How's towing been going? Everything been working properly? Anything I need to bring?