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.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Transit Days

This particular CRED cruise leg has the most transit days of any trip. Like good scientists, we spend most of the time working. This is a great time to write up our cruise reports and compile preliminary findings from our data. We also attempt to organize photos and plan for the next leg of our cruise.
Most of us don’t know what the date is, or what day of the week it is, but we all know when it’s 7:00 AM, 11:00 AM and 5:00 PM, because that’s when we get fed. I wouldn’t say there’s a stampede to the galley, but it’s hard to ignore the delicious smells that waft their way through the ship.

Yesterday we had a training exercise in pyrotechnics. We learned how to shoot flares and rescue lines safely, and helped the ship get rid of their expired flares. It was a welcome break from the computer screen, and everyone had all of their fingers and toes when we were done. The only thing we lost (temporarily) was a plastic rocket used for launching line, and that was recovered by conducting a man-overboard drill. With all of the drills we partake in, I believe we are the safest ship in the Pacific right now.

The small gym on the ship is usually full and rocking. We want healthy scientists, and it is a nice break from working. We have an elliptical machine, a bike, a Bowflex, and free weights. The other day we had a record of 5 people in the gym, no small feat. Another favorite past-time is ping-pong. The chart table in the dry lab is just about the same size as a ping-pong table. The only challenge is that we are on a rocking ship in the middle of the ocean. It makes for some exciting ping-pong games. The scientists have accepted the fact that they may get beamed by rogue ping-pong balls, and take it in stride. It’s a small price to pay for having happy ship-mates.

Most of us aren’t used to being dry for this long and are starting to shrivel up. At long last, Guam was spotted today, so we will be back in the water before we know it!

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