The Global Reef Expedition visited many countries in the Pacific Ocean to assess the health and resiliency of their coral reef ecosystems. We observed some of the most pristine reefs in the world in French Polynesia and experienced swarms of hammerhead sharks on the cold-water coral reefs of the Galapagos. We surveyed the iconic reefs of Palau’s Rock Islands and provided local leaders with the information they needed to protect their reefs in places like Fiji and Tonga.
We set out on the Global Reef Expedition to map and characterize coral reef ecosystems and assess their overall health and resiliency. In 2012 we visited the Galapagos Islands to study survey the reefs and study the impacts of ocean acidification. The following year we conducted multiple month-long expeditions in French Polynesia, mapping and surveying the reefs of the Society, Tuamotu, Gambier, and Austral Archipelagoes. In 2013 we sailed west, studying the reefs and associated fish communities of the Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga, and New Caledonia before heading south to study the largest coral reef on Earth, the Great Barrier Reef. We may have been the last research mission to explore the relatively pristine northern Great Barrier Reef before it was devastated by coral bleaching in 2014. Toward the end of 2014, we traveled to the Solomon Islands, located in the Coral Triangle boasting some of the highest biodiversity on earth, where we partnered with XL Catlin Seaview Survey to acquire high-resolution 360-degree panoramic imagery of the reefs. Finally, we headed to Palau in early 2015 to study their world-renowned coral reefs.
Now we are in the process of analyzing our data and publishing scientific reports about the health and status of coral reefs in each country, and sharing our findings with local resource managers, relevant government agencies, and environmental organizations. We have already achieved some conservation success. Our research has informed the creation of a marine protected area (MPA) in Lau Province, Fiji, and is currently being used to inform marine spatial planning efforts across the South Pacific.