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, April 18, 2009

Last days at Tinian

We finished surveys around Tinian a few days ago and it was one of the first really spectacular weather days we've had. We were treated to sunny skies and calm water with not a swell or white cap in site.  We were also treated to some amazing scenery ... as the last few islands we have explored (Guam, Rota, Aguijan, and Tinian) have all been composed of limestone that has dissolved through the years from the pounding of waves and rain. These combined forces have created some amazing caves and overhangs. Some of the caves are at the water's edge while others are half way up the cliff face. It has made for some dramatic transits between survey sites.

Unfortunately, one of our small boats (HI-1) wasn't having quite as good of a day as we were. It has been having intermittent transmission troubles for the last few days which clear up every time we bring the engineers out to take a look (kind of like when you take your car to the mechanic). On their last dive, while on the bottom, the REA team could hear the boat overhead and a rhythmic knocking as if there was tribal music playing.  Then everything went quiet and as they were swimming back to the boat, they noticed that the anchor line was out - not a good sign. The boat had evidently stopped working all together and a tow boat from the ship was on the way to bring them home. It was a very quiet, slow ride back with plenty of time to consider the luxury of such a large diving platform versus the inflatable Avon that they will be using until HI-1 is up and running again. So begins our adventures aboard Avons! Wish us luck ...


  1. Wonderful job guys. I love the pics and what you are doing for our planet. I teach art and the colorful photos you provide excite the kids. Thanks

  2. Thanks so much for your comment. We have been having a terrific time out here and it means so much more to know that we are making a difference not only to the scientific community but also to educators and students all around the world. No matter how much of our work gets published or presented at conferences, it is the work that makes it to the next generation of teachers, scientists and policy makers that makes the biggest difference.