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.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Visiting the Hi'ialakai

by Cristi Richards

On February 15, the NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai opened its doors and gangway to the American Samoa community in Pago Pago for an open house. Members of the public were invited to tour the ship and hear about all aspects of its operations from the Bridge to the Fantail. Participants were treated to a Bridge familiarization with an explanation of the electronics and maneuvering procedures, an overview of the deck machinery and how the small boats are launched for daily operations and hands-on demonstrations of the scientific aspects of the cruise including algal identification, the morphology of coral disease, fish survey techniques, towboard operations, and ARMS and invertebrate observations via a microscope. Crew and Scientists participating included ENS David Vejar, SS Gautano Maurizio, Chief Scientist Benjamin Richards, Oceanographer Oliver Vetter, Benthic Team members Molly Timmers, Cristi Richards, and Bernardo Vargas-Angel, Towboarders Kevin Lino, Jason Helyer, and Fish Team member Paula Ayotte.

Despite the rain and President’s Day, we had a modest turn out and were excited to see members of the public interested in what we spend so much time working on. It was especially wonderful to see the curiosity on children’s faces when learning about what they probably see every weekend on the beach. One set of children were particularly surprised when shown a slightly green, calcified, crunchy and segmented example from the local beach which is actually the green alga Halimeda. This alga is one of the primary sand producers in the area and a common sight on local beaches however many people might not identify it as a plant. The Towboard demonstration was also a highlight as the team had recent video footage from Howland and Baker Islands playing. The Towboard methods allow a large area to be covered and the footage gives the viewer the sense of flying over the reef. We are always excited to show off the ship and the work that we do. We are looking forward to the next import when we can again invite members of the public aboard what we’ll be calling home for the next 2 months.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your postings!
    Did you notice any changes in the ocean during the tsunami?
    The Samoa News said only school children could visit your vessel.
    When will you return to Am.Samoa?