Friday, August 19, 2011

Turtles & Algae Blooms

Lots of rainy weather has been keeping us from getting much done, but we've worked on the reef a few days and seen some interesting things!
The NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette came by for a few hours on 8/12 to drop off several invasive plant, monk seal, and turtle researchers from French Frigate Shoals and Kure.  I was impressed to learn that the turtle researchers observed over 800 nesting green turtles this year, which is a record!  They were here for several days before the next plane on 8/18, so they volunteered with FWS and were a great infusion of young (mostly female) people to the island!
The albatross fledglings are almost gone - I think I've only seen a couple in the last few days, so the island's pretty empty during the day.  However, at sunset, thousands of Bonin petrels fly in to rest in their burrows.  They're very disoriented by light, so they make walking, biking, and driving at night dangerous and often fly into lit windows.  
In the few days we've been able to work on the reef in the last week or so, we've observed the first confirmed observation of a hawksbill sea turtle in many years (we're not sure when the last one was!) and documented a small algae bloom.  Since the first monotypic (1 species) algae bloom documented at Midway was in 2008 (my first scientific publication in a journal!), this is very interesting and we'll be watching it closely.  It's particularly interesting because this seems to be a different species that is known for being invasive, although it is native, and smothering coral and other algae in seasonal blooms off Maui.


Barb said...

Loved seeing the picture of the Hawksbill turtle; got more?!

Will you have to preserve a sample of the algae and take it to, say, University of Hawaiʻi or the Bishop Museum, to get it identified?

Kristin said...
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Kristin said...

Hi, Barb -

Unfortunately, Ray only took a few photos of the hawksbill turtle and they all look pretty much the same. Now I want to go through all my turtle photos and check every turtle I see to determine if I see any more!

I think I was able to identify the algae, but I also dried a sample by pressing it and sent it to NOAA's coral reef algae expert, Peter Vroom. He should be receiving it in the mail today, so we'll see what he thinks!