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.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Meet the Scientists

The Benthic Team  

Erin Looney (Team Lead)
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division
Originally from Georgia (y’all), Erin Looney moved to Hawaii 3 ½ years ago to be a part of the benthic team at CRED, where she studies the demographics and disease states of coral communities.  Erin earned a BS in Biology and a BS in Ecology from the University Georgia in 2004, and after a few years of moving around from one fun job to another, she returned to UGA for a MS in Environmental Health Science, where she focused on the microbial aspects of coral disease.  While on these research expeditions, Erin’s primary job is to count and measure every coral within a certain area, while assessing the health and condition of each.  This is Erin’s first trip to the U.S. Line Islands, and she couldn’t be more excited.

Rodney Withall 
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division
Rodney Withall works as a phycologist (the study of algae) and loves to find, collect and study algae. Originally from a small town in Ontario, that’s in Canada EH!  Rodney began scuba diving 18-years ago in the frigid Great Lakes when he was hardly old enough to drive a car and somehow was inspired to become a marine biologist.  He has a BS in marine biology from the University of British Columbia and an MS in biology from the University of New Brunswick where his research focused on the biodiversity and molecular systematics of marine macroalgae. Although his task is to document the diversity of corals and algae, he remains interested in biodiversity and is often seen looking into every little crack in the reef hoping to find the rarest algae, perhaps even one that is new to science.  Rodney is also interested in protecting these pristine environments and the integrity of the science that is conducted within them.  He has just been accepted to law school, so if you wish to donate to his tuition fund, you can email him at rodney.withall@noaa.gov

Jeff Anderson
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division

Jeff conducts benthic habitat surveys collecting coral reef ecosystem data for long-term monitoring and research.  On this cruise through the Line Islands, he is part of the Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) team responsible for counting, measuring, and assessing disease condition of hard coral colonies.  Earlier in this expedition, and on previous CRED research cruises, he participated as a member of the Towed Diver team which conducts benthic habitat and fish surveys over large spatial scales (~ 1.5-2 km per dive).  In addition to his work with the Benthic team, Jeff is a member of CRED’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) team collecting coral reef ecosystem data beyond SCUBA diving depths (up to 1,500 m).  Prior to joining CRED, Jeff worked on NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary's Damage Assessment and Resource Protection (DARP) team stationed in Key Largo, FL. In that role, he specialized in conducting benthic surveys collecting demographic data for hard and soft corals, along with underwater still photo and video image capture, assessing injuries and implementing restorative actions to coral reef and seagrass benthic communities caused by vessel grounding, anchor dragging, etc.  Additionally, Jeff helped the Sanctuary maintain a network of 35 subsurface water temperature monitoring devices.  Conducting benthic habitat surveys for over 8 years, Jeff has been a NOAA Working Diver since 2008, NOAA Scientific Diver since April 2000, and a PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer since October 1997.

Chris Sullivan
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Chris Sullivan is the microbiologist on the U.S. Line Islands research expedition. He is a 2nd year master’s student in Dr. Stuart Sandin’s lab at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO). Chris holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology (Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution) and also in Economics from University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Growing up in San Diego, Chris became very familiar with southern California’s coast and the life within its coastal waters. He first became interested in studying marine biology when he visited San Diego’s Sea Camp in the eighth grade. It was during his time as a UCSD undergraduate that he volunteered on a CalCOFI research cruise and worked in two different labs at SIO. He spent time processing phytoplankton samples in Dr. Ralf Goericke’s lab and measuring CO2 in seawater in Dr. Andrew Dickson’s lab. This is Chris's third CRED research trip, with his first being the Main Hawaiian Islands research expedition in 2010 and second in the Northern Marianas in 2011. Although Chris currently studies fish ecology, his microbiology and water chemistry background made him a great candidate for the position. 

Molly Timmers
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division

Molly leads the Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structure team examining crazy, intriguing, and fascinating marine invertebrates that are totally cooler than backbones and charismatic megafauna….totally.  She has a BA in Biology, an MS in Conservation Biology and Environmental Science,  and has been diving and working with CRED throughout the Pacific Ocean for the past 11 years.  This is the 5th time that King Neptune has granted her permission to conduct research on a research cruise to the U.S. Line Islands.  When Molly is not examining the biodiversity on reef systems, she’s hiking, backpacking, singing show tunes, enjoying a Chimay, crushing in cribbage, dominating in pinochle, and daydreaming of Middle Earth.

Scott Godwin
Papahanaumakuakea Marine National Monument
I have had the privilege of participating in expeditions to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Samoa and the US Line Islands for the past 12 years. My participation has always involved documenting and collecting the hidden animals that make up a majority of the diversity on coral reefs. I am a marine invertebrate zoologist but I do not focus on corals. I instead look at the variety of invertebrate organism evolved to use coral reefs as a home. Since these animals hide or are camouflaged, most people do not have many chances to see them while diving on coral reefs. While my colleagues are counting fish and documenting corals I usually am looking under rocks or have my head stuck in a hole. Most everyone is familiar with crabs, snails and sponges but do not realize the important role they play in the existence of coral reefs and that some of them represent our closest relatives in the ocean. Furthermore the beauty that these organisms possess can rarely be seen since they hide so well. I am working with colleagues on this expedition to identify crabs and other hidden creatures to document their diversity.I presently work as the Resource Protection Specialist for the Papahanaumakuakea Marine National Monument, which encompasses the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Data Management Team

Annette DesRochers (Team Lead)
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division

 After earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Science Biology from Long Island University in New York in 1997, Annette worked for a local municipality for 10 years where she learned and eventually managed Southampton Town’s Geographic Information System (GIS). Her desire to work in the Marine Sciences again brought her to Hawai’i just over four years ago to work for CRED as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist; a perfect opportunity to combine her educational background and professional experience. In 2010, she took on a new role with CRED as the head of CRED’s Information Services team; a group of technical specialists focused on data management, GIS, graphic design, and scientific technical editing. Annette is excited to be part of the mission to American Samoa and the Line Islands and will be supporting the scientific staff as Data Manager. It is her second trip to American Samoa—she was part of the CRED team that assisted the Territory with marine debris surveys following the tsunami in American Samoa in 2009—and her first expedition to the U.S.-owned Line Islands

The Fish Team

Dr. Jill Zamzow (Team Lead)
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division

Jill Zamzow is originally from northern California, and she graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Marine Biology in 1993. She received her M.S. (1999) and Ph.D. (2003) in Zoology from the University of Hawai`i at Manoa. Her graduate and postgraduate research (always involving fish and SCUBA diving) has taken place on many small Pacific islands, as well as in Australia, Jamaica, Panama, and Antarctica. She began working for the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division in 2010, currently holds the position of Reef Fish Researcher and serves as scientific liaison to the main Hawaiian Islands. When on research trips, Jill counts fish using both the towed-diver and Rapid Ecological Assessment methods. While Jill has participated in numerous research cruises, this is her first time to the Line Islands. When not counting fish or exploring long-term trends in reef fish population data, she enjoys running marathons, backpacking, paddling outrigger canoes, and relaxing on the couch with her husband and their two cats. 

Paula Ayotte
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division
Originally from California, Paula Ayotte moved to the Big Island of Hawai`i in 2002 where she attended the University of Hawai`i at Hilo. After graduating with a major in Marine Science with a minor in Biology, Paula moved to Oahu and joined the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division as a marine ecosystem research specialist. Paula has participated as a Rapid Ecological Assessment fish diver on more than 20 Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program cruises throughout the Pacific during the past 7 years; this will be her fourth visit to the Line Islands. During this cruise, she will again be counting and sizing fish, as well as torturing her fellow scientists with her 8-minute ab® workout.

Kevin Lino
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division

Kevin Lino is a Marine Ecosystem Research Specialist at the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) in Honolulu (2005-present). Kevin works primarily as fish diver conducting both types of surveys (tow and SPC). Kevin also functions as both a permit and logistics coordinator for various research cruises. Kevin has been a scientist and coxswain on most of the research cruises aboard the Hi’ialakai and Oscar Elton Sette over the past 7 years with CRED and is quite familiar with the shipboard operations and crew members. Kevin is an experienced scientific and working diver who has also worked with the marine debris program in the Northwestern Hawaiian and Main Hawaiin Islands aboard vessels, helicopters and shore based removal activities. Prior to CRED Kevin worked as a fisheries observer on the Honolulu tuna and swordfish long line fishing fleet. After graduation from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (BS Biology), he worked as a pre-college instructor at Wallop’s Island Consortium in Virginia teaching coastal ecology and conducted coral reef research in Roatan, Honduras and San Salvador, Bahamas. 

Mark Manuel
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division
Mark Manuel was born and raised on the island of Hawai‘i and is on this particular cruise as a fish team member looking to assess fish populations among the different atolls and islands visited. He currently works with the Coral Reef Ecosystems Division (CRED) of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu, HI. He achieved a B.A. in Marine Science from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and is currently finishing his M.S. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science also at UH-Hilo. 

The Oceanography Team 
Danny Merritt (Team Lead)
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division

Daniel Merritt is on the cruise working with the Oceanography Team. This is his 4th research trip  to the Line Islands. Daniel has been working with CRED since 2004, first as a graduate research assistant from 2004-05, and as an ocean engineer since 2006. Merritt works with and supports many technical and oceanographic projects at CRED including the Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures, Calcification-Acidification Units, and oceanographic instrumentation used on this research cruise. He received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in California, and a M.S. in Ocean Engineering with an emphasis on coastal processes at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Hawai`i. 

Jamison Gove (Chief Scientist)
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division

Jamison Gove moved to Hawai´i in 2001 to work for the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division removing derelict fishing gear from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  His background in science combined with his experience in the NWHI lead Jamison to graduate school a year later, when he entered a Masters program in Physical Oceanography at the University of Hawai´i. Jamison continued working with CRED as a graduate research assistant, then as an Oceanographer upon completion of his degree in 2005. Presently, Jamison leads the Oceanography group at CRED while concurrently working on his Ph.D. at UH in Oceanography, researching the effects of oceanographic forcing on benthic coral reef communities.

Oliver Vetter
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division
Oliver was born and raised in Cardiff, Wales. He received his undergraduate degree in Oceanography with Physics at Southampton University in England and moved to Hawai'i the following year.  Initially he worked as a field and lab technician in the University of Hawai'i School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and subsequently completed his masters in Physical Oceanography from the University of Hawai'i.  His master's thesis investigated wave energy attenuation over reefs in Hawai'i and Guam.  In addition to the scientific training he received during his masters he received his scientific diving qualification and learned many aspects of oceanographic instrumentation which opened the door for employment at CRED. He has been with CRED since 2006 and in addition to his scientific and field work he is the CRED's scientific liaison to Guam.

Chip Young
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division
Chip began working at CRED in 2005.  As a member of the Oceanography Team, he has participated in research projects that have taken him throughout the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  He has a B.S. degree from the United States Naval Academy and an M.S. degree from the University of Hawaii.  While studying chemical oceanography in the Department of Marine Geology and Geochemistry at UH, Chip developed his interest in marine nutrient cycling and the impacts of anthropogenic influences on nearshore coral reef ecosystems.  While on this research trip, Chip will focus on water column and reef measurements related to the process of ocean acidification.  Through the collection of water samples, coral cores, and the deployment of various instrumentation, the Oceanography Team will monitor chemical, biological, and physical variability exhibited by the coral reef ecosystems CRED studies.

The Towboard Team

Jake Asher
Coral Reef Ecosystem Specialist
Jake Asher is a Marine Ecosystem Research Supervisor with NOAA PIFSC CRED in Honolulu, HI. He is originally from Washington DC, but spent many summers along the eastern seaboard where his interest in marine science grew. He has a Bachelors of Science from the University of Michigan (1994), a Masters of Environmental Management from the Duke University Nicholas School of  Environmental (2001), and will be enrolling in a PhD program at the University of Western Australia (2012 –  2015). From 1995 – 2002, Jake was involved in a variety of marine science research programs, including phytoplankton/cyanobacteria research at the Heinz Steinitz Marine Biological Laboratory in Israel, a fellowship at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences examining coral disease frequencies, a Sister Exchange Program between the Chugach National Forest and Magadan Marine Preserve in Russia, marine mammal research with the NOAA Beaufort, North Carolina Laboratory, and working as a NOAA Fisheries Observer in Alaska. Jake’s current interests focus on benthic habitat assessments using rapid ecological assessment and towed-diver surveys, along with reef fish stock assessments using unbaited/baited remote underwater video stations.   

Marie Ferguson
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division

Marie Ferguson graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a B.A. in Environmental Science and began her scientific diving career in 2003 working for the Partnership for the Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) at the Marine Science Institute in Santa Barbara. She moved to Oahu in 2006 to pursue her interests in tropical marine ecological research and has been working for CRED with the marine debris, fish, benthic towboard and Mapping teams. This cruise she is a benthic towboard diver conducting benthic surveys over large spatial scales. When Marie isn’t out at sea she enjoys running, hiking, backpacking, biking, surfing, camping, traveling and getting in the ocean as much as possible.

Kaylyn McCoy
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division 

Kaylyn is from North Carolina and is on the Hi`ialakai as a member of the towboard team to assess reef fish populations. She works for the Coral Reef Ecosystems Division of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu, HI. She received her B.S. in Zoology from North Carolina State University, and has done research on the coral reefs in Australia and the Turks and Caicos Islands. She has been in Hawai`i for six years, and this is her second trip to Jarvis, Kingman, and Palmyra. She likes long walks on the beach, PBR tall boys, and getting caught in the rain.

Noah Pomeroy
Coral Reef Ecosystem Division

Typically involved in oceanographic research, Noah is mixing it up this cruise as a fish survey towed diver so he doesn't lose touch with his marine biology roots. Alongside another towed diver surveying the benthos, Noah is pulled behind a boat at a depth of about 50 ft while holding onto a board and documenting observations of large (>50cm) fish. A member of the CRED team since 2005, Noah has participated in several marine debris survey and removal cruises in addition to RAMP cruises during which he has fostered his interest and experience in oceanographic research, including the passive acoustic investigation of coral reefs. Noah received a BS in aquatic biology from the University of California Santa Barbara in 2004 where he also learned to SCUBA dive and began his career in marine science.
Visiting Researchers

Stephani Gordon 
Open Boat Films
Filmmaker Stephani Gordon spent years as a marine field biologist before leaving Hawaii to pursue an MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking. With her production company, Open Boat Films, she has filmed in locations around the world, working for PBS, National Geographic, The Waitt Institute for Discovery, NOAA, National Park Service, and other organizations. She is working with the science team on this cruise to film an outreach video for NOAA that will offer the public a way to vicariously experience these remote coral reef ecosystems.

Amanda Meyer
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Amanda Meyer grew up on the island of Oahu and has spent most of her life in and around the water.  She received her PhD from the University of Hawaii, studying marine ecology of coral reef fish, with a specialization in ecology, evolution and conservation biology. Presently she works for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, and has been the Wildlife Refuge Manager for the Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef National Wildlife Refuges for the past three years.  

1 comment:

  1. What a great team, it's good to know the oceans are in good hands. To bad mankind has made their job so difficult.