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You are here: /main/research/NWHI RAMP 2004/journals/1st Field Day

September 16th: Our First Field Day

Written By Dan Suthers September 17-18, 2004

Today was the first day of on-site data gathering, so the morning began with early boat launches. On this expedition, there are several major activities in a typical day involving at least three boats. Today the operations were as follows. (See the Participants list to find out who's on each of these teams.)

HI-1, the 10 meter jet boat, supports the Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) teams, including Benthic and Fish teams. The Benthic team studies bottom-dwelling life, including corals, algae and invertebrates, while the fish team studies fish and other swimming animals. Both of these teams conduct their observations along the same transect marked by a line along the bottom. An article on REAs explains this further.

HI-3, the 19' boat, supports the Towboard team. Observations are conducted by two SCUBA divers on boards towed by the boat. One diver controls a camera pointed forwards to record fish, and the controls a camera pointing down to record benthic habitat. The towboard team covers longer transects than the REA teams, but in less detail. For example, towboard data will indicate percent coverage of alae and corals, while REA data includes identification to the species level. An article on Towed Diver Surveys explains their work further.

Loading HI-2 boat for mooring team HI-2, the 8 meter jet boat (pictured to left), supports the Oceanography team. They study environmental variables that affect reef health, such as temperature, radiation, and salinity. They deploy sensors that gather data for over a year as well as some that send data in real time via satellite. On this voyage, their job is to retrieve and replace sensors that they previously deployed. The sensors range from small devices that are left underwater for a year and retrieved using GPS and visual search by divers, to large surface buoys that are moored to the bottom and retrieved by a ship's crane. Hence they are also known as the "Mooring team." You can learn more about their work in this article on Reef Oceanography.

There is also one rescue boat, HI-4, and two Zodiacs (inflatable launches), HI-5 and HI-6 that are available if work must be done in multiple locations.

The Night Operations team is responsible for several types of data gathering that can be or must be done at night, usually by dropping sensors in the water and/or towing them. These include a Towed Optical Assessment Device (TOAD), for video recording of benthic habitat, and a Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) sensor, for obtaining deep water profiles. (Conductivity is an indicator of salinity.)

Finally, there's the Outreach and Education team. David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton are two well known wildlife photographers who are working on a book to document the beauty and variety of life in the NWHI so that the general public enjoy it and become aware of the need to protect this unique area. My role on this team is "science writer." My job is to learn about the science being undertaken on expeditions such as this one, present that science in a manner understandable to the general public, and (after the voyage) help teachers develop strategies for students' learning about the islands and their ecosystems.

For the education team, today was Tern Island day. See the related article about our visit.

See also these related NOWRAMP 2002 journal entries:

Real Science - the science behind the NOWRAMP Expeditions by Mark Heckman

Rapid Ecological Assessments by Mark Heckman

Ship Logs

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HI-1 boat loaded for REA team

HI-1 with air bottles and other equipment for the REA team


Satellite image of FFS marked with REA sites

REA and Towboard sampling sites around the French Frigate Shoals


Lowering a mooring block into the sea

Lowering a mooring block


Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) Sensors


Photographing critters in the wet lab


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