About the Expedition

On January 21, 2010, scientists from the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (CRED/PIFSC), along with visiting scientists from the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego State University, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and local agencies in American Samoa, departed on a three month expedition to Johnston Atoll, Howland and Baker Islands, American Samoa, Jarvis Island, Palmyra Atoll, and Kingman Reef aboard the NOAA Ship Hi'ialakai. This is the fifth biennial Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (Pacific RAMP) expedition to American Samoa and the seventh to the Pacific Remote Island Areas. The expedition is sponsored by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) and is divided into three segment sequentially led by Chief Scientists Benjamin Richards, Rusty Brainard and Jamison Gove.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Our First Days at Johnston

by Benjamin Richards
photos by Kevin Lino, Kara Osada-D'Avella, and Russell Moffitt

Our first two days at Johnston Atoll have been spectacular. In years past we have arrived at the atoll to find howling winds and pounding seas which have kept us from surveying large sections of the exposed forereef areas along the north. This year a gentle swell has been breaking along the northern reefs as gentle breezes come in from the south. We can only hope the weather continues to hold.

Our first half day at the atoll was a shakedown day, which each of the teams used to kick off the "rust" that had built up after several months out of the water. While all are experienced divers, several of the teams have not worked together before and it usually takes a dive or two before they meld into the well oiled machine we see by the end of the expedition.

The towed-diver team started off their surveys along the western forereef where we often see large numbers of grey reef sharks. Sure enough, there they were as soon as we splashed into the water. See sharks out here is a good sign and we are happy each time we see these apex predators which tend to indicate a fairly intact food chain and a healthy reef system.

Our Oceanography team has been able to recover and install a number of instruments which measure sea surface temperature as well as a number of other oceanographic variables during their two year deployment. They were also able to install several calcification plates which are a new deployment for us. These small plates are being installed at various locations around the pacific during this expedition. They will be recovered after two years at which time scientists will measure the amount of calcification which has taken place.  By comparing measurements from various areas over time, we may be able to get a better understanding of ocean-acidification, one of the many threats facing these magnificent reefs.

We were also able to drop off our US Fish and Wildlife Service partners on the main island where they will spend the next few days surveying the local bird, turtle, and other populations. We look forward to their report when we pick them up before heading south to Howland Island.

1 comment:

  1. Do you have any pictures of Johnston Atoll from your trip? It would be interesting to see how the Atoll looks now.