Posted: July 7, 2021

Monument Field Research: Summer 2021

Left: Reef with fish and coral. Right: Rubble and dead coral.
Left: Rapture Reef at Lalo (French Frigate Shoals) before Hurricane Walaka (Image: James Watt/NOAA). Right: Rapture Reef after Hurricane Walaka (Image: Kailey Pascoe, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo).

Island of Mokumanamana.
Outbreak of red alga at Manawai (Pearl and Hermes Atoll). Image: Taylor Williams/NOAA

The summer 2021 field season provides PMNM with an opportunity to more fully assess the impacts of a newly described outbreak of a red alga (Chondria tumulosa) with invasive behavior at Manawai (Pearl and Hermes Atoll), as well as to document the impacts of Hurricane Walaka (2018) on the coral reefs and low-lying islands of Lalo (French Frigate Shoals). Collaborators from many institutions, including the University of Hawai‘i system, the College of Charleston, and others, were successful in securing over $500,000 in grants to help PMNM better understand the causes and consequences of the algal outbreak at Manawai. Specific projects include growth studies, water chemistry, and nutrient upwelling studies. Development of eDNA (environmental DNA) techniques may allow detection of Chondria at a given site by taking a water sample and analyzing it for the presence of DNA fragments from the species of interest. Damage assessments at Lalo will use 3D technology to document the extensive destruction of coral reefs and erosion of low-lying sand islands resulting from the near-miss by Hurricane Walaka. Additionally, this cruise will also document the ongoing recovery of shallow reefs at Kapou (Lisianski), where a mass coral bleaching event in 2015 resulted in high coral mortality. With the decommissioning of NOAA ship Hi‘ialakai in 2020, PMNM lost its workhorse research platform for the NWHI. Both research cruises this year will sail on the Honolulu-based charter vessel Imua. The two expeditions are July 8 - 27 (Cruise 1) and August 1 - 20 (Cruise 2). Each will be 20 days long. The first cruise will focus efforts mainly at Manawai (Pearl & Hermes Atoll) and the second cruise will work its way up and down the chain with Hōlanikū (Kure Atoll) being the furthest Island/Atoll visited.

Meet the team.

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