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 29, 2010

Safety First

by Jamison Gove
The NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai
Painted in sizable black letters and readily seen against the stark white background of the towering exhaust stacks are two important words: Safety First. These words provide not only a daily reminder of the often unpredictable and precarious nature of seafaring work, but also serve as a testament to the professionalism and commitment of those aboard the Hi'ialakai to conduct safe and impact free operations wherever the ship may travel.

Scientist Chip Young
dons a survival suit
The past few days have been spent instructing the new members of the expedition on the safety procedures in place aboard the ship in addition to providing refresher training for existing personnel. Abandon ship drills, life-raft familiarization, fire drills, dive-gear check outs, oxygen delivery and reviewing diver rescue protocols are just some of the trainings being conducted en route to Jarvis, ensuring that everyone aboard is well equipped to avoid a potential hazard and navigate any situation that may arise.

Chamber Supervisor Jim Bostick
provides an overview of the
recompression chamber

An intrinsic part of coral reef research is repetitive and arduous SCUBA diving. Since this expedition began, scientists have conducted over 2000 dives, quite a lot considering the ship left Honolulu just over 2 months ago!  Due to the high quantity of dives combined with the remote island locations visited during this research cruise, an essential piece of safety equipment carried on board is a Recompression Chamber, a 52-inch diameter pressure vessel used to treat dive related maladies such as Decompression Sickness (DCS). The chamber has been on the Hi'ialakai since the ship was first commissioned in 2004 as a vast majority of the research conducted on board is diving related. Although the chamber is autonomous, meaning it can operate independent of the Hi'ialakai's power supply, it does require a Chamber Supervisor to properly operate the chamber, a Dive Medical Officer (DMO) to coordinate medical treatment and a Dive Medical Technician (DMT) to tend and care for the injured diver inside the chamber. Each of these people are extensively trained and are present for every dive expedition the Hi'ialakai embarks on, providing security and piece of mind to each of us divers on board the ship.


  1. Can we see more of Scientist Chip Young?

  2. Thank you anonymous for your question! Chip Young plays an integral role in oceanographic research; you will undoubtedly see more of Mr. Young during this expedition.