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

Stepping back...

By Annette DesRochers

We’re now down to the last few days of transit, and while they have been more relaxed for some, for me, not so much.  As data manager, one of my responsibilities is to work with each of the teams to help compile all of the information that was collected into a final cruise report for the mission. We have learned the hard way that the more that we are able to complete prior to the end of the cruise, the better. As soon as we pull into port and disembark the ship, all of us will quickly be immersed into the life, work, and responsibilities that await us back home.  So the push is on. 

The first quasi-annual masquerade ball, a welcome diversion from the winding-down activities. A great morale boost in the final days of the cruise.
While working on database stuff for the report today, I kept thinking about how I would find the time to write my blog, and then debated what I would write about. For a bit I thought I might talk about the responsibilities of a data manager during a research cruise, but let’s face it. Who really cares?  I manage data. Enough said. Rather than talk about my small role in this large effort that we’ve all contributed to, instead I’d like to try and take a step back and take a look at the big picture.
Those who know me will easily concur that I can tend to be a bit of a workaholic at times. Out here it is even easier to get sucked up into the work to be done because you never get to go home and separate yourself from it. To work at such a pace can be taxing, both physically and mentally. Individual morale can be all over the map depending on how much sleep you’ve had, how many days in a row you’ve been working, what the sea conditions and weather are like, and so on. And sometimes, when all you want is a moment alone, it’s really hard to find it when there’s 40-something people on a 240-something foot ship. So your emotions are pretty much out there, exposed for all to see. But that can be a good thing too because when you’re having a moment, someone is there to laugh you right out of it. The comradery amongst the scientific staff and the crew is really incredible.
The highly-prized trophy for the winner of the masquerade ball, handmade by Chief Engineer Jesse Duncan.
As the cruise quickly winds down, there is still a long list of “to-dos” that must be accomplished. Myself and others included have spent hours on end at the computer, writing the reports and doing database things, others have been checking supplies, breaking down gear, and packing up, and some are even prepping for the next cruise which departs only one week after we return.  But despite the push, there is still the need to stop working for a bit to take time out for ourselves and to appreciate all that has been accomplished.
Paula Ayotte, forever our (my) ring leader. You can't not smile when she's around.
So I took time out tonight to watch the highlights from Ben and Cristi Richards’ trip to Mongolia, followed by a much needed 8-min abs workout and stretch with our ring leader Paula Ayotte.  Though I could have done without the workout (bazinga Paula!), it was just what I needed after a long day at the computer. We were up on the aft deck on our yoga mats stretching, and I just gazed up at the evening sky. I so wish that I could have photographed it for you all to see. A clear dark night lit only by the stars. It reminded me of why it is that we are all out here in the first place. We’ve just been to one of the most beautiful places in the world, and we came here so that we might help to protect it. We just have to remember that while we’re engrossed in our own work to accomplish that end, that it’s important to take that step back and appreciate all of it while we can.

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