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.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Finding the lee

by Benjamin Richards
Hurricane Rene tracks across Samoa
Our transit south from Baker Island to American Samoa has gone well and has been largely uneventful.  That is, at least, until we began to feel the effects of hurricane Rene, which has been wandering around in the south Pacific.  The storm first tracked east to the north of Samoa and then turned back to the west, this time to the south of Samoa.  As Pago Pago, our intended destination is on the south side of the island of Tutuila, this southerly storm track did not bode well.  Waiting to see how conditions would change, we slowed our southward course and eventually decided to delay our arrival in Pago Pago, to ride out the storm in the lee of the island of 'Upolu.

During our transit this morning we experienced stiff winds in the neighborhood of 40 knots and driving rain, but the good ship Hi'ialakai rode the seas well and handled beautifully.  We are currently in the lee of 'Upolu, where the wind and seas are calm and a gentle swell rolls in from the east.  We will bide our time here until the storm clears and plan to arrive in Pago Pago on the morning of 2/14, Valentine's Day.

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