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, September 28, 2010

Drawing to a close

By Russell Reardon,

Well, we are nearing the end of our return transit to Honolulu and are on schedule to pull into Pearl Harbor tomorrow morning.  During 15 days of in-water operations on this expedition, favorable weather allowed the scientific party to safely and comfortably conduct a total of 768 SCUBA dives, documenting the coral reef biota, habitats and oceanographic parameters of the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

We have but one more quick stop to make today at a location known as “Five Fathom Pinnacle,” approximately 25 miles west-southwest of the island of Ni`ihau, where the Oceanography Team will conduct one last dive to swap out an Ecological Acoustic Recorder (EAR).
An Ecological Acoustic Recorder (EAR) rests on the seafloor and records ambient sounds.
An EAR is an instrument that sits on the ocean floor and records ambient sounds as a way to characterize the presence and activity of sound-producing marine organisms on the coral reefs and in surrounding waters. The recorder is also well suited for monitoring human activities on the reef. The noise produced by anthropogenic sources, such as boat engines and anchor chains, is also captured along with naturally occurring sounds.  To learn more about the EAR and passive acoustic monitoring of coral reef ecosystems visit http://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/cred/ear.php

Over these last transit days, the scientists have been busily entering and checking their data and pulling together the bits and pieces that will comprise the official cruise report.  Equipment has been cleaned and dried, offloading and refueling arrangements have been made, and preparations for the next cruise are being finalized.

In just one week after our return to Honolulu, the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division’s next research cruise as part of the Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program will begin.  The 30-day expedition will study the coral reef biota and habitats in the main Hawaiian Islands. During the brief time the ship is in port, the small boats will be serviced and necessary repairs will be made, scientific equipment will be added, the ship will be re-provisioned, and a new compliment of scientists will prepare to embark on their journey through the ‘Main 8’ (though 1/3 of the scientists currently aboard will actually be departing on the next cruise as well).

Thank you for following along with us on this mission to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, and be sure to check back on this website to follow along with the next compliment of scientists as they embark on the next cruise beginning October 7, 2010.

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