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.)
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.
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.
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