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.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Corals, corals, everywhere ...

by Bernardo Vargas-Angel

High percent coral cover and species diversity; that is what we encountered while working site TUT-09, located on the south-facing shores of Tutuila Island. It was a vibrant tapestry of texture and color; Montipora, Acropora, Pocillopora, Hydnophora, Coscinaraea, Leptastrea, Leptoria, etc; the list of coral genera was endless, and so was the number of individual colonies encrusting on the flat bottom.

The coral working-group of the Benthic Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) team specializes in gathering data that pertains to the structural demographics of the coral populations. In other words we are interested in acquiring information about the different types of corals present on the reef, their relative abundance, as well as the sizes of the different colonies. Once collected, this information is later summarized and analyzed, and is made available to local, regional, and state resource managers.  Armed with this information, these managers can make informed decisions pertaining to the administration and use of natural resources around the island.

The coral working-group collects the coral demographic data along two belt-transects, 25m in length by 1m width. Today, my dive buddy Erin and I were particularly challenged in getting our work accomplished at survey site TUT-09, not only due to the high numbers of coral colonies growing on the bottom, but also because we had wave and surge action which made it difficult stay focused on one portion of the bottom at a time. Nonetheless, after a long 85 minute dive, Erin and I emerged satisfied with the work we accomplished, and were pleased to have had the opportunity to investigate such a site.

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