Monday, July 18, 2011

Currents, Coring, and More

We’ve been keeping Jack very busy lately with lots of work, but he’s also given us an excuse to do some fun stuff that we don’t do very often.  We’ve wanted to make sure Jack had the opportunity to enjoy and take lots of photos in diverse areas of the reef, so we’ve been doing that too, which we don’t take the time to do very often.  It reminds us how lucky we are to live and work in such a beautiful and amazing place for a few months, even though we do work very hard.  Jack was greeted by a gray reef shark on his first day in the water and by a pod of spinner dolphins swimming with us on his second day (no photos unfortunately!). 

We’ve also gone on a tour of Sand Island and accompanied the FWS biologist, Pete Leary, to Eastern Island the other day.  We were happy to help Pete check salinity of the three Laysan duck seeps over there, and he showed us the Battle of Midway Monument, thousands (or more) Sooty Terns and their eggs and chicks, and several Red-Footed Boobies with chicks.  A trip to Eastern Island is the one day all summer for which I bring and wear closed-toe shoes because Eastern has lots of puncture vine that can go right through sandals and hurt your feet a lot (I have previous experience!).  

Jack and I also helped the FWS volunteers monitor the beach for marine debris, monitor banded black-foot albatrosses (almost gone for the summer!), and check seeps for sick Laysan ducks.

As for work, Jack helped us drill cores of the hard substrate (dead coral), collect and examine spat collectors to study pearl oyster recruitment, conduct bivalve surveys, collect coral reproductive samples to determine spawning schedules of Midway corals, and more.  His expertise with tools and boats has been very helpful to us several times, and he’s always willing to help in whatever way he can.  

Jack has developed his own “current meter” using a buoy, some metal weights, a compass, a timer, and a line to measure currents everywhere we stop, which will help us to get a picture of how the currents work here and how coral, pearl oyster, and other larvae may be moving around.  

Jack and I have also been discussing how to incorporate inquiry-based learning into his classroom.  He and I have to develop a module to use in his classroom by September.  So far, we’ve just discussed what he’s teaching in his classes and tossed around a few ideas.  We’ve talked about maybe doing an “Ecosystem in a Jar” project or some kind of population dynamics project with systems around the school.  We've also collected lots of albatross boluses (the chicks regurgitate all un-digested material in their stomaches just before they fledge - usually lots of squid beaks and plastic) for his students to dissect to learn about albatrosses and the plastic in the ocean.

By the way, don't forget that every time I post to this blog, I also post these photos and many more (including captions) to  Enjoy!


Fasano2112 said...

I will be in Midway with marine artist Wyland to film a documentary. I am wondering when the coral spawning event for different species will occur in July. I do have a background in reef restoration having worked for NOAA Fisheries in Miami. I was involved in many spawn collections and replanting of corals in Key Largo. Can you advise where I may gather information on Midway coral spawning events please? any and all info would really help.

Mahalo Nui Loa:
-Charlie Fasano-

Kristin said...

Hi, Charlie -

Sorry, I don't think coral spawning has been documented in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, except one observation of Pocillopora meandrina (probably the most widespread coral in the NWHI) last May at French Frigate Shoals ( and much more info online). According to that press release, three other species have spawning timing documented, but I've never seen that mentioned before. I'm guessing Jean Kenyon at NOAA's Coral Reef Ecosystem Division would be the one to talk to - Coral reef science in the NWHI is just too recent and rare to have documented such a patchy occurrence extensively.

I hope you have a great time at Midway with Wyland! I'm definitely missing Midway this year since I'm in Australia instead. Tell everyone that Coral Reefer Kristin says hi!