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.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More cool critter sightings

We are currently at the dock in Pago Pago Harbor, waiting for deliveries so that we can continue our work eastward to Ofu / Olosega and Ta'u. Until we are able to leave dock, these are a few more photos of critters that we see while on the reef. All of these pictures were taken in a reef environment between 10 and 20 meters (30 and 60 feet). Enjoy!

Gomophia sp., a type of Sea Star
(Photograph by Molly Timmers)
Crinoid (Photograph by Erin Looney)
Dardanus sp., a type of Hemit Crab
(Photograph by Molly Timmers)
Gymnothorax sp.,  a species of Moray Eel
(Photograph by Erin Looney)
Octopus sp. (Photograph by Molly Timmers)


  1. Hi Molly! I notice that the sea star had little spikes on it. Were the spikes rounded or could they hurt people? Are there different colors on the bottom, or is it all black and white? The pictures look interesting. The octopus is adorable and it has little bumps, are those suction cups?
    Seychelle, age 6.

  2. Hi Seychelle,

    Interesting that you thought of spikes on the sea star because chocolate chips come to my mind when I see this critter. Although they are somewhat pointed at the tips, the spikes are not sharp and do not hurt people. However, they are tough and rigid. I've attached a photo of the bottom. As you can see, the colors are not too different and the spikes are not there. Why do you think the bottom doesn't have any spikes?

    The bumps that line the Octopus' arms are suckers and function like suction cups. Why do you think they have these on their arms?