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, March 11, 2011

Headed Out

by Ben Richards

Aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln
across from us at the fuel pier
After a nearly on-time departure from Ford island, we made our way to the fuel pier where we spent the next few hours taking on the fuel we would need for the next few months at sea. As we approached the pier, our 240 foot ship started to feel smaller and smaller as we pulled in next to (and almost under) the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, which was docked just on the other side of the pier. I was on the top deck of our ship, looking directly across at the Lincoln's anchor. It was at least another 30 feet up to her flight deck, where the jet fighters were packed wingtip to wingtip. We watched in amazement for the next few hours as the 5600 sailors and airmen started to disembark and, presumably, head into Waikiki.

With our tanks full, we slowly pulled away and headed out of the mouth of Pearl Harbor, and turned to the west into the open seas. After a few minor engineering hiccups (the ship has been beside the pier for the last four months) we cleared Ka'ena point and the western end of Oahu and were on our way. We have nine days of transit before we reach Wake Island and the science party is taking some much needed rest after the whirlwind of pre-departure preparations. We will spend the next few days conducting emergency drills, making ready the scientific equipment, and planning out our upcoming operational days.

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