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.

Friday, May 6, 2011

CNMI Residents Tour the Hi'ialakai

by Dave Burdick.
NOAA photos by Annette DesRochers

With the Hi'ialakai in port after a 17-day expedition to the Mariana islands north of Saipan, the Ship and her crew welcomed nearly 200 government officials, students, teachers, and other residents interested in the Hi'ialakai and her mission to the breathtaking string of volcanic islands that comprise the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.  Guests were given a tour of the Hi'ialakai by the Ship's crew and were briefed by scientists from the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center Coral Reef Ecosystem Division on the coral reef assessment and monitoring activities carried out from the ship.  The warm, inviting sun over Saipan accompanied a parade of feet, both big and small, across the deck of the Hi'alakai.  The invigorating day was filled with questions posed by inquisitive guests, intriguing anecdotes from the expedition to the northern islands, and even some laughs as the Ship's visitors listened intently as the crew of the Hi'ialakai and NOAA scientists eagerly shared their experiences of life on the ship and on the reef.  Below are a few photos of the day's events...

Chief Scientist for the 2011 Marianas expedition, Jacob Asher, briefs a delegation of local CNMI officials on the goals of NOAA CRED's Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program and an overview of the methods they use to achieve them.
A group of young visitors are given a tour of the Hi'ialakai's impressive bridge by Operations Officer, Lieutenant Tony Perry.
NOAA CRED Benthic Biologist, Edmund Coccagna, points out the location of towed-diver surveys around Saipan to a group of guests, while holding the impressive tow board and mounted camera in-hand.
Junior Officer, Ensign Brian Elliot, introduces a group of students to the dive chamber aboard the Hi'ialakai, which can be pressurized to treat injured divers in the event of a dive emergency
The Ship's guests are both informed and entertained by an animated demonstration of an ecological acoustic recorder (aka EAR), by NOAA CRED Oceanographer, Frank Mancini.
A group of local CNMI students examine the Coral Reef Ecosystems of the Mariana Islands, a report released in 2010 that presents the findings of the first three years of data collected by the NOAA CRED team.

A delegation of CNMI officials join the Ship's captain, Commander John Caskey, and NOAA CRED scientists for a group photo in front of the Hi'ialakai

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