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.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Who are we and what do we do?

by Benjamin Richards

This year we will be sailing with 22 scientists from NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Division and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  We are a multidisciplinary team of researchers who study the oceanography, fish, coral, algae, invertebrates and birds that live in and around the remote reefs and atolls of the U.S. Pacific Islands. Our main objective is to continue monitoring for natural or anthropogenic (human-induced) fluctuations in the reef communities and to document the range of species (or biodiversity) that exists in various reef habitats.  As our data set grows we are also working to identify patterns of habitat use and species' interactions. During this research cruise, teams of divers will be surveying the reef communities, recording species abundance, diversity, and spatial distribution for all four of these key components of the ecosystem. Our US Fish and Wildlife Service colleagues will be going ashore on various islands to study and monitor the local bird and sea turtle communities.

During the cruise we will be conducting three main kinds of SCUBA surveys: towed-diver surveys, Rapid Ecological Assessments (REAs), and Stationary Point Counts (SPCs), each of which is designed to gather information on a different part of the reef community. Biological data from these surveys can be analyzed in the context of oceanographic conditions and benthic habitat maps to help us understand how coral reefs function as an interconnected ecosystem.

Over the past 10 years, our main research objectives have been to:
  • Document baseline conditions of the health of coral reef living resources (fish, coral, algae, and invertebrates) in the U.S. Pacific Islands.
  • Refine species inventory lists of these resources for the island areas.
  • Monitor these reef resources over time to quantify possible natural or anthropogenic impacts.
  • Document natural temporal and spatial variability in the reef resource community.
  • Improve our understanding of the ecosystem linkages between and among species, trophic levels, and surrounding environmental conditions.
We hope you will join us to learn more as we continue our explorations of this amazing world beneath the waves ...

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