January 19, 2013
By Megan Berkle and Eddie Gonzalez
Research dives can be distilled down to lists of what is seen and what is not seen. Surveying the reef means figuring out what is there and what is missing. For the last few days, the science team has been jumping into a variety of sites inside the lagoon and outside the perimeter of Hao Atoll. As dive buddy teams enter the water, they scatter across the reef to deploy their instruments, gauges, transect lines, and quadrats with efficiency and purpose. It’s an amazing sight.
Clip boards and cameras record the species, size, distribution, abundance, and health of corals, sponges, fish, and invertebrates. By aggregating the observations, some early assessments are possible. For example, as in the other French Polynesia research sites, branching corals such as cauliflower coral (Pocillopora), table and staghorn corals (Acropora), thin crusts of corrugated leaf coral (Pavona), and fire coral (Millepora) are the more the common corals seen so far in Hao.
After each dive, the conversation on the dive boat quickly turns to the highlights. Fish ecologist, Badi Samaniego, caught a glimpse of the uncommon Chabanaud’s soapfish. On another dive, a giant manta ray (Manta alfredi) glided past the science team in the outer lagoon. Each dive reveals more about the underwater ecosystems at Hao Atoll.
(Photos by: 1 Brian Beck, 2 Joao Monteiro, and 3 Phil Renaud)