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.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

From Midway to Wake ... or Maybe Kure?

by Ben Richards
photos by Lisa Munger
HI-2 heads in to Midway Atoll
We arrived at Midway atoll early this morning and, despite wet and windy conditions, successfully deposited our Laysan Island refugees in good hands with the US Fish and Wildlife Service personnel on island. At present, it looks as if they will remain on Midway for a week or so, before being flown to Honolulu aboard a US Coast Guard C130 that will be conducting overflights of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to evaluate damage from the recent tsunami.

After recovering HI-2, we began our transit to the southwest and to Wake. We had not been on our way more than an hour when we received the call that we were needed again. Five NOAA and US Fish and Wildlife Service personnel stationed on Kure Atoll were in need of evacuation. While risks still remain fairly remote, the threat of radiation contamination from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi power station remains. Were we not to evacuate these personnel, it would take a minimum of five days for another ship to transit from Honolulu to Kure Atoll if the current situation worsens. Add in the complications of a potential government shutdown, and it was deemed prudent to evacuate all personnel while the Hi'ialakai is in the area.

HI-2 returns to the Hi'ialakai
So, we are back in rescue mode. Thankfully the large swell of the past few days has dropped substantially and Kure has both an easily navigable channel and a small boat dock that will make the evacuation of personnel much more straightforward that it was at Laysan. Our plan is to take the people aboard this afternoon and take them back to Midway atoll, from where they will be flown to Honolulu along with the personnel from Laysan. Once this operation is complete, we hope to be able to continue to Wake to begin our original operations. As always, we'll keep you posted.

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