Surveying the Reefs of Lana’i – by Air and by Sea

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As the sun begins to rise over the island ridges of Lana’i, Hawai’i, the drone lifts off from its landing pad on the beach and begins to fly a grid along the coast, imaging the nearshore coral reefs. The drone is being flown by Dr. Ved Chirayath from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science’s Aircraft Center for Earth Studies (ACES). Ved has pioneered a new approach to mapping reefs using drones equipped with fluid lensing technology. While this cutting-edge technology is capturing reefs by air, the need for in-water validation of those images and census of marine life is critical to understanding the status of this coral reef ecosystem. And that is where my expertise comes into play.

I have been surveying reefs all over the world for the past 10 years, and I am excited to be putting my skill set to use again in the field. Traditional underwater surveys of both the benthic and fish communities, combined with drone surveys, gives the most detailed information regarding the health of the coral reef ecosystem…

Surveying Coral Reefs in Hawaii with ACES

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Earlier this year, the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation joined Dr. Ved Chirayath on a research mission to survey and map coral reefs in Lana’i, Hawaii. Chirayath leads the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science’s Aircraft Center for Earth Studies (ACES), and has pioneered a new approach to mapping reefs using drones equipped with fluid lensing technology.

Fluid lensing harnesses the unique power of waves to magnify and concentrate light on the seafloor, essentially allowing users to see through the water and map the seafloor in stunning detail…

Protecting Palau’s Reefs

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For thousands of years, Palauans have practiced “bul,” which is a traditional method of ecosystem conservation. In this practice, coastal communities will close areas to fishing and prohibit access for a designated amount of time, though not indefinitely. This traditional practice has become the basis for a large network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in Palau. Most marine conservation efforts in Palau are led by individual states, which established their first internationally recognized marine conservation area as far back as the 1950s. Since then, many states have established MPAs and the national government of Palau has implemented large scale MPAs offshore, protecting 80% of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from commercial fishing.

Palau’s Coral Cover Was the Highest We Found on the Global Reef Expedition

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On our Global Reef Expedition mission to Palau in January 2015, our team of scientists surveyed 85 different coral reefs, stretching from Angaur in the south, through the majestic reefs of the Rock Islands UNESCO World Heritage Site, all the way to Kayangel Atoll and Ngeruangel Reef in the north. The team explored barrier reefs, atolls, fringing reefs, reef channels, back reef environments and lagoonal patch reefs assessing the community dynamics and health of corals, fish and other benthic organisms.

Perhaps one of the more striking takeaways from this mission was the incredible coral cover and diversity. Palau boasted over 40% live coral cover across all sites surveyed—the highest overall average live cover observed on the Global Reef Expedition. To put that number into perspective, when the GRE visited reefs in Fiji we recorded an average of just over 30% live coral cover. Even when compared to other locations that are well known coral hot spots, like French Polynesia and areas of the Great Barrier Reef, Palau’s live coral cover still appears to be unrivaled.

KSLOF publishes our findings on the status of coral reefs in Palau

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation is proud to release our findings on the state of coral reefs in Palau. Our research, based on extensive underwater surveys, found Palau’s reefs had the highest live coral cover of all the reefs studied on the Global Reef Expedition, a scientific research mission to assess the health and resiliency of coral reefs around the world.

Published today, the Global Reef Expedition: The Republic of Palau Final Report summarizes the Foundation’s research on the status of coral reefs and reef fish in Palau and provides conservation recommendations that can help preserve these outstanding coral reefs for generations to come.

The State of Coral Reefs in the Solomon Islands

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation (KSLOF) is pleased to announce our findings from the Global Reef Expedition mission to the Solomon Islands! Released today, the Global Reef Expedition: Solomon Islands Final Report summarizes what we found on a monumental research mission to study corals and reef fish in the Solomon Islands and provides recommendations on how to preserve these precious ecosystems into the future.

The Red Reefs of Prony Bay

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One of the most interesting locations we visited in New Caledonia was Prony Bay. Prony Bay is located at the southern end of Grande Terre at the base of a large nickel mining operation. The towering red-tinged mountains in the background were just the beginning of the intriguing research site of Prony Bay. The visibility was very low because of fine reddish silt that formed a cloud every time a fin kick was a bit too close to the bottom. Therefore, the scientific divers had to be very careful with their buoyancy control. High turbidity, low salinity, and sedimentation run-off are poor environmental conditions for corals to be able to successfully live—let alone thrive. But a robust and diverse coral community is exactly what we found.

Global Reef Expedition: Findings from the Kingdom of Tonga

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation has published our findings from extensive coral reef surveys conducted in the Kingdom of Tonga. Released today, the Global Reef Expedition: Kingdom of Tonga Final Report contains critical information on the health and resiliency …