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.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Drills, Preparations, and Stars

by Benjamin L. Richards

Today was a day of drills and preparation. We awoke early and, after breakfast, began our pre-dive safety checks – going over all of our dive equipment, re-familiarizing ourselves with our dive boats, and meeting with the ship's medical officer to go over our recent medical history and to have a base-line neurological assessment. Once our checks were complete it was time for lunch, and then on to the safety drills – fire, man overboard, abandon ship, and the launching of the life rafts. Everything to get ourselves reacquainted with our new home.

We are scheduled to arrive at French Frigate Shoals tomorrow evening and at this point, most of our equipment has been prepared and we are ready to go. Tomorrow we will complete the final checks and settings on the electronic equipment and run through our plan for our first day of operations.

After dinner several of us took a few minutes to head up to the bow for the sunset and to watch the stars come out. If you have never seen the stars at sea, it is a sight to be seen. Sitting on the bow or leaning along the rails, each star becomes a gleaming pinprick of brilliance in the deep blackness of the sky. We sat, listening to the waves crash as the bow of our ship cut through the swells, feeling all the world like ancient mariners plying the waves.


  1. Is it possible to take and post a picture of the night sky?

  2. Aloha JFR. Thanks for your question. That is an excellent idea. Unfortunately, in order to make a nice image of the night sky – similar to the ones you see in magazines with the stars wheeling overhead - you need to leave the camera shutter open for a long time. While the shutter is open, the camera needs to be absolutely still and is usually mounted on a sturdy tripod. This poses a problem given that our ship (on which our tripod would be mounted) is moving in and of itself. So, any image we made of the night sky would likely be so blurry that it is doubtful anyone could tell what it was.