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…

Shark tagging with our partners, Black Girls Dive Foundation

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“There’s a shark on the line!” The young ladies from Black Girls Dive Foundation (BGDF) squirmed with anticipation and giggled with excitement. As their chaperone, I could feel my own adrenaline surging as we watched the University of Miami (UM) team scurrying around at the back of the boat. The chaperones fitted the first four students with gloves and life vests. Then the students lined up in single file to begin their assigned individual and group tasks. It was time to get to work.

In December, I had the honor of being asked to join our partners at Black Girls Dive Foundation on a shark tagging expedition with the UM Professor Neil Hammerschlag’s Shark Research and Conservation team at Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmosphere Science. The trip is part of BGDF’s Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics with SCUBA (STREAMS) program, which is designed to introduce black girls between the ages of 9 and 17 to a multitude of activities. The Shark Research and Conservation Capstone is a component of the STREAMS program that teaches about the behavioral ecology and conservation of sharks. After completing a series of lecture and lab activities, this part of the program culminates with a field-intensive research expedition: shark tagging.

Coral Reef Educator on the Water (CREW)

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The CREW program offers high school teachers the opportunity to join the Global Reef Expedition (GRE) on one of its missions. Participants gain first-hand experience of life on board a working scientific research vessel, a greater understanding of the importance …