Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Coral Reefers in Australia!!!

Several months later . . .  As we are all completing and analyzing our research projects at Midway Atoll, our organization is not sending any researchers to Midway this year (unfortunately - we all miss it!).  Instead, most of us are currently presenting our research at the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, Australia ( 

Yesterday morning, I presented my findings on the abundance and genetic identity of pearl oysters at Midway Atoll (with a few surprises that resulted in gasps from the audience!) - "Pearl Oysters (Pinctada) of Midway Atoll (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands)."  Wendy also presented part of her Ph.D. research on "Algal growth and coral recruitment: distinguishing fish and urchin effects" yesterday afternoon. Tuesday, Don presented collaborative research from the International Ocean Drilling Program cruise to the Great Barrier Reef, in which he participated in 2010 and for which he has been analyzing samples ever since.  Our colleague, Jennifer O'Leary, who came to Midway in 2006, also presented a portion of her Ph.D. dissertation research on the coral reefs of Kenya on Monday.
Kristin, Jennifer, and Wendy meet Fred the Koala

In addition to presenting our research and attending many fascinating presentations, we've enjoyed meeting and networking with the other 2,000 scientists and managers from over 80 countries attending the conference!  We're also enjoying the opportunity to explore Australia, as this was Wendy and Jennifer's first visit (I spent 4 months in nearby Townsville during study abroad several years ago and Don is originally from Australia).  Wendy, Jennifer, and I, with other scientists we met, explored the Atherton Tablelands south of Cairns, where we saw a beautiful waterfall, a fascinating and ancient Cathedral Fig Tree, and wild platypuses!  We also took the Skyrail tour over the rainforest and enjoyed meeting koalas, wallabies (including one with a joey!), and many other Aussie animals in Kuranda.  After the conference, we're all planning dive trips to explore the Great Barrier Reef and I'm even traveling to West Australia to see Ningaloo Reef.
If you'd like to learn more about the conference, check out its website at  You can read and even sign the Consensus Statement on Climate Change and Coral Reefs, which we have all signed.  After the conference ends Friday, all abstracts and proceedings will be available online, as well as video of the fabulous plenary speakers.

For those of you in Hawaii, I'll also be presenting my own research and a summary of our lab's Midway research at the Hawaii Conservation Conference in Honolulu on August 1.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Several days of sunshine and calm seas have helped us accomplish a lot in the last week and kept us very busy.  We're also happy to currently number five "Coral Reefers" at Midway since Wendy and Joe joined us on September 8, so we can often divide into 2 teams on the water. 

We've been continuing bivalve surveys and reef growth, but also working on Wendy's coral restoration experiment.  All four of us have been working to find, photograph, and measure the finger coral (Porites compressa) nubbins we transplanted to Rusty Bucket patch reefs last September.  Joe and I also helped Wendy remove and process coral recruitment tiles and check the healthy Porites compressa reefs from which we removed the transplants.  Here's Wendy checking a large colony.
While we were there, I finally got a photo of me with my study organism, the black-lipped pearl oyster.  This will probably be on my family's Christmas cards this year!
At one point, Joe was on the boat while Wendy and I were in the water and a juvenile booby landed on his hand and stood there for about five minutes!  Both Wendy and I took lots of photos!  Joe was one of our Mitsubishi volunteers in 2008 and offered to come out and help us again this year for two weeks.  Although he can't dive here, he's been free-diving a lot and helping hugely in a variety of ways!
Joe also helped Don remove my cages while I checked my tiles for pearl oyster growth and survival.  We're spending a lot of time now removing experiments and installations in preparation for the end of the field season.  Joe and the FWS volunteers have been helping me remove the temperature loggers we have deployed all over the atoll.  Here's Don working on removing cages.
Life has also been exciting on the island as both the Coast Guard buoy tender Kukui and our cargo ship the Kahana have been here for a few days in the last week.  The Coast Guard ship has been repairing the navigation buoys and range markers around the atoll and ferrying people to and from Kure Atoll (60 miles away) for some construction projects happening there.  Here's a photo of the Kukui at work.
It's so unusual to have an extra 50 people (mostly young) all over the island, particularly since they had days off they spent enjoying the beautiful beaches and partying.  We also enjoyed having a cargo re-supply because we now have a big variety of beer, fresh milk, and a pinball machine!  Here Don encourages Chugach transportation worker Thawal (who has worked at Midway over 10 years) try out the new pinball machine.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Reef Growth, Rainbow, and More!

Again, we've keeping very busy as we approach our final two weeks at Midway.  Don and Kristin have been continuing bivalve surveys at sites inside the atoll, as well as measuring reef growth on the exposed reef rim at two sites on the east side of the atoll.  Here Don measures reef growth using a contour gauge suspended between three bolts permanently deployed on the reef crest.

FWS volunteers Dani and Eamon helped Kristin remove her spat collectors and buoys on Saturday and Sunday.  Kristin conducted her final check of all of the spat collectors sitting in a very pleasant shaded spot along the harbor seawall.  A manta ray came to visit several times, a rainbow appeared over the harbor, and a juvenile monk seal played nearby.

On Monday (Labor Day - no rest for these busy Coral Reefers!), Don also helped Kristin check her cages and tiles for survival and growth of pearl oysters with restricted and unrestricted predation (e.g., caging).  Don discovered a ledge and caves hosting at least 12 big lobsters at the Pinctada Patch site!

Between her continuing neck and shoulder problems and a deep cut on her hand, Anne can't go in the water at all.  Instead she's been working with Don to build a frame for and test our underwater video camera, which can be deployed overnight and uses infrared illuminators.

On a lighter note, the Coral Reefers enjoyed barbecued hamburgers, potato salad, and lots of other yummy foods at the annual Labor Day party on Saturday night.  Although the promised horseshoe and volleyball games never happened, several people (including FWS volunteers Amelia and Dani) did play Guitar Hero on the Wii!