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 26, 2010

Traditional Hawaiian Observations and Western Science

By Mark Manuel

‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka halau ho‘okahi.
Not all knowledge is learned in one school.

As our voyage on the Hi‘ialakai comes to an end, there are many great moments instilled in my memory as well as an exceptional amount of ‘ike or knowledge that I’ve gained through this experience. The ‘ōlelo no‘eau or Hawaiian proverb above speaks of the ability to learn or acquire knowledge in different ways and that not all knowledge is gained from one source. It is one that I live by every day and one that I try to live by when encountering new environments or situations. To me there is never a point in which you stop learning and there is never only one place to learn from. Similarly, there is never one fixed way in doing things in life to inevitably reach the same goal or achievement. That is why I would like to compare my experiences on this cruise with the western science approach of using experimental designs, statistics and quantifiable data to the simple observations taken by my Hawaiian ancestors, both of which strive for conserving resources.
Stationary point count method
Through my experience as a fish team diver, I’ve had the opportunity of observing numerous reef fishes around the various atolls and islands that we’ve visited using a method called the stationary point count (SPC). This is a unique method that utilizes two divers working along a 30 meter transect in which each diver identifies, sizes and counts all fish within their respective 7.5 meter cylinder. These surveys are done at various depth stratums around each atoll to get a thorough quantifiable representation of fish abundance, diversity and biomass. Other teams on the cruise also utilize various methods with strong scientific background and research objectives. The oceanographic team uses an intriguing instrument called the RAS (Remote Access Sampler), which is deployed to collect water samples. The benthic team deploys ARMS (Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures), which are recruitment apparatus’. All together as a team this cruise has been filled with intense scientific data collection, which can be used to help ensure the proper management and conservation of these finite resources and help understand the coral reef ecosystem as a whole.
Fish diver Mark Manuel trying to count a large school of ‘ōmilu or Caranx melampygus
From a Hawaiian standpoint simple observations were made daily and transcribed in mele (song), oli (chant) and mo‘olelo (story). These important observations were a necessary part of their survival and utilized to conserve resources that could be limited due to the geographic isolation of the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaiians viewed all living things with respect as if they were part of their ‘ohana or family. They tried to observe everything from a holistic standpoint and made connections or correlations with their observations. In many cases there was always something on land that was connected to the ocean and vice versa. This comes from the perspective that what is done on land will inevitably have some kind of influence or effect on the sea, whether good or bad. For example, this is the Hawaiian Lunar month of Hilinamā, which gets its name from the switching of weather from calm/stormy and humid/breezy conditions during this equinox time period (Kalei Nuuhiwa 2010). According to the ‘ōlelo no‘eau, Pua ke kō, kū mai ka he`e, when the sugar cane blossoms the he‘e or octopus appear, refers to this time of year in which sugar cane blooms and he‘e are abundant. Interestingly, one of the other fish divers and I have noticed that there were quite a few he‘e on a number of dives we’ve done during this trip. Some may view this traditional knowledge as coincidence; however, we must consider that this information has been passed down from generation to generation as a way of life. This is just one of many examples of the intuitive connections Hawaiians had with their surrounding environments and the conclusions that were drawn in order to conserve resources.
Day octopus or Octopus cyanea
Fortunately, through my collegiate career I’ve had the opportunity to take part in numerous research projects that have allowed me to gain valuable insight into various western science approaches, all of which inspired me to continue my affiliation in the research field. However, I’ve also been exposed to many great Hawaiian elders and practitioners that have inspired me to embrace my Hawaiian culture and learn from those who have come before me. So whether it be conducting SPC’s or just making simple observations of my surroundings, there is one saying that comes to mind, Ma ka hana ka ‘ike, knowledge is gained by doing, so we as conservationists need to get out there and make a difference. With that said, Mālama i ke kai…Aloha!
Amazing sunset following a long day of diving

No comments:

Post a Comment