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.READ MORE...
The strategic goal of this research is to improve scientific understanding of coral reef ecosystems throughout the Pacific, and serve as the basis for improved conservation and resource management. The recent designation of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument highlights the importance of this research.
With their extremely isolated location, many of the Pacific Remote Island Areas host a vibrate marine ecosystem. Previous Pacific RAMP cruises have documented relatively high coral cover and diversity; and high densities of large-bodied reef fish including large numbers of apex predators such as Grey Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) and Scalloped Hammerhead sharks (Sphyraena lewini). Many of these apex predators are rare near human population centers. AS in previous years, this Pacific RAMP cruise will perform a suite of standardized multi-disciplinary methods which include Rapid Ecological Assessments (REA) for fish, corals, other large invertebrates, and algae; towed-diver surveys for large-bodied fish and habitat composition; and oceanographic studies, which include the measurement of conductivity, temperature, and density of the water column (CTD casts); water sampling; and deployment of sea-surface temperature (SST), subsurface temperature recorders (STR) and acoustic doppler current profilers (ADCP). Scientists will also be deploying Ecological Acoustic Recorders (EARs) to learn about changes in the presence and activity of marine mammals, fish, crustaceans and other sound-producing marine life when researchers aren't there to record it otherwise. Autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS) will also be deployed as part of the CReefs project. ARMS are simple, standardized collecting structures designed to roughly mimic the structural complexity of reef habitats. They allow for the identification of small, hard-to-sample, but ecologically important cryptic invertebrates. ARMS are being utilized throughout the Pacific and globally to systematically assess spatial patterns and temporal changes of biodiversity. Use of the EARS and ARMS are an exciting addition to RAMP data collection efforts.Follow along below to learn more about where we are going, what we are seeing, and what we have found ...
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Visiting the Hi'ialakai
On February 15, the NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai opened its doors and gangway to the American Samoa community in Pago Pago for an open house. Members of the public were invited to tour the ship and hear about all aspects of its operations from the Bridge to the Fantail. Participants were treated to a Bridge familiarization with an explanation of the electronics and maneuvering procedures, an overview of the deck machinery and how the small boats are launched for daily operations and hands-on demonstrations of the scientific aspects of the cruise including algal identification, the morphology of coral disease, fish survey techniques, towboard operations, and ARMS and invertebrate observations via a microscope. Crew and Scientists participating included ENS David Vejar, SS Gautano Maurizio, Chief Scientist Benjamin Richards, Oceanographer Oliver Vetter, Benthic Team members Molly Timmers, Cristi Richards, and Bernardo Vargas-Angel, Towboarders Kevin Lino, Jason Helyer, and Fish Team member Paula Ayotte.
Despite the rain and President’s Day, we had a modest turn out and were excited to see members of the public interested in what we spend so much time working on. It was especially wonderful to see the curiosity on children’s faces when learning about what they probably see every weekend on the beach. One set of children were particularly surprised when shown a slightly green, calcified, crunchy and segmented example from the local beach which is actually the green alga Halimeda. This alga is one of the primary sand producers in the area and a common sight on local beaches however many people might not identify it as a plant. The Towboard demonstration was also a highlight as the team had recent video footage from Howland and Baker Islands playing. The Towboard methods allow a large area to be covered and the footage gives the viewer the sense of flying over the reef. We are always excited to show off the ship and the work that we do. We are looking forward to the next import when we can again invite members of the public aboard what we’ll be calling home for the next 2 months.