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Currently showing posts tagged CORAL

  • One Foot in Front of the Other

    It's hard to remember that the true "science" of the CORAL campaign is quite literally the data collected by the airplane. All of the ground work - from logistics to boat hours, from instrument setup to algorithm tweaking, from underwater camera challenges to photomosaicking... all of this has but a single purpose: to validate the data collected by the airplane. To conclusively state, "Yes. The airplane imagery looks good."

    So how do you tell 14 people working their butts off for two solid weeks that the airplane still isn't ready? And that even if it had arrived on time, there's too much cloud cover to conduct any useful flyovers?

    It's not easy. But the unpredictability of the weather is something that every environmental scientist comes to accept. The chaotic nature of the Earth is both incredible and incredibly frustrating, and we experienced the latter during our Operational Readiness Test in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

    Luckily, a coral reef ecosystem takes a long time to change its structure in any significant and visible way. Because of this, we can confidently say that the airplane images (shot 1-2 weeks late) are still correlated with the underwater validation images. In the end, our benthic cover team was able to document almost 20 sites, despite high tradewinds and turbid water!

    It was eye-opening to see just how many moving parts come together to create a good matchup. The science team needs to be on location, the airplane has to be on standby, instruments can't fail, pilots need to have available hours, clouds can't blow in, etc., etc., etc. And this is all for a study conducted right here on our home planet.

    I can't even imagine how NASA deals with outer space.

  • Mission Complete

    Woah. A whole month has gone by since my last post, but it feels like only yesterday. I've never traveled for work at this scale before - a field campaign, a science convention, and preparation for the next field campaign all at the same time. I was in Oahu so long my hotel room started to feel like an apartment.

    Over the next few days I'll try to break down some of the highlights of the trip. The plane containing the PRISM instrument arrived two weeks late. I took a Portugese Man-O-War to the face. We experienced 26 mph winds in Kaneohe Bay during a time period that's historically calm. But after all was said and done, the Operational Readiness Test was deemed a success! Thank God.

  • 10 Days and Counting

    A major part of any dive project is making sure everybody's AAUS Science Diving qualifications are up-to-date. It was a terribly sad morning for all of us on the BIOS CORAL team, who had to take a boat out in the beautiful weather and do checkout dives at North Rock.

    Puddingwife Wrasse (Halichoeres radiatus) - These guys are notoriously curious and fearless. As usual, there were a few circling our crew during the checkouts.

    Greater Soapfish (Rypticus saponaceus) - I've never noticed this fish in Bermuda before! They often exhibit strange behavior, for example, this one was laying flat on his side in the sand. His mottled skin was good camouflage, and he looked supremely annoyed when I nudged him up to take a picture.

    Queen Parrotfish, Terminal Phase (Scarus vetula) - A prominent, vital species in Bermuda reef ecosystems, parrotfish work tirelessly to crunch up bits of algae and produce new sand.

    Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) - It's always fun to find a big ol' lobster sitting out on his front porch. They're mostly nocturnal, taking refuge in little caves like this during the day when predators are active.

  • 14 Days and Counting

    Two weeks from today I'll be sleeping in an American Airlines seat destined for Honolulu. (Even with two layovers, American is the only airline that can get you from Bermuda to Hawaii on the same date.) I'll arrive at 10:50pm, pick up a rental car, and start the actual madness of our Operational Readiness Test.

    The ORT is exactly what it sounds like: a test to determine if field operations are running smoothly enough to perform. All three science teams will be on the water in conjunction with flyovers by the Tempus airplane containing PRISM. The focus is to work out any kinks in methodology, but the hope is to collect accurate, usable data on the first try.

    I've been working my butt off the last few months trying to organize documentation and logistics for 15 people across North America to come together and get some gosh darn work done. So let the countdown begin!

  • Kona Post 2: The Work

    I know this post is long overdue... thank you for being patient while I scrambled, prioritized, and totally uprooted my life. Now let's get back to the topic at hand: moray eels!

    Eels are such a regular occurrence in Hawaii that the usual diver reaction is boredom, if not slight annoyance. But to me (being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for Kona water), having an eel curiously tag along on field work is the most exciting part of the day. This guy followed me around for a good 15 meters, diving in and out of the reef and swimming a little too close for comfort. I think I saw a total of 4 eels that day!

    This fine piece of machinery is called a Profiling Reflectance Radiometer (PRR). There are sensors facing out of each end that measure the amount of light in the water column. We'll be deploying it everywhere to amass a gigantic data set about ocean optics.

    The team was lucky enough to hire an incredible boat driver that had pimped his ride perfectly for our style of field work. Seriously - I have never worked on a boat so comfortable or well-formatted. John was hilarious, accomodating, smart, and gave great local food recommendations. (Not to mention that whole bag of homemade breakfast musubis he brought us.)

    Then we discovered reefs have fish. Crazy, right!?

    ...And this is a great shot of when we desperately attempted to dry all of our scuba gear on the hotel balcony less than 24 hours before traveling halfway around the world with crammed, salty luggage. Welcome to airplane life.

  • Kona Post 1: Poke, Poke, Mocha

    No trip to Hawaii is complete without lots of poke and spam. Eric and I quite literally went straight from airport to marina for fresh ahi poke and fish tacos. Tuna was the catch of the day at every restaurant on the island this week, and boy, do I love me some raw tuna.

    From top to bottom: fresh poke from Bite Me! Bar and Grill, fried poke balls with spicy mayo and pickled cucumbers, and teriyaki poke with furikake rice, kim chee cucumbers, and crazy delicious mac salad (not pictured) from Umeke's.

    I found it strange that spam treats were harder to find on Kona (as opposed to the other islands). Our boat driver responded to my grievances by bringing a huge paper bag of homemade musubis one morning. AHHHHH! <3

    I also discovered Lillikoi Hi-Chews (seriously, best flavor) and Royal Mills iced Island Mochas. The canned coffees contain four different milk products plus sugar - which is my favorite way to drink caffeine. Thank god these aren't in the states, or I might get fat and hyped.

    We also visited the original Kona brewhouse, which, albeit being poorly set up as a restaraunt, had surprisingly good pub food and duh-licious beers. The Hula Hefe sealed a perfect end to every exhausting boat day. God. I. Love. Hawaii.

  • First Up: The Big Island of Hawai'i!

    Some field work on Kona was abruptly dropped into my lap last week. I pulled some organizational acrobatics and get to fly out early Saturday morning for my first NASA research site. Unfortunately, I'm a little out of date on the AAUS diving requirements and can only perform dive work up to 30 ft. Boats, 78°F, and volcanoes - totally sucks, right?

    If you haven't used Google's new My Maps, it's brilliant. I'm going to start logging all of our field sites here, adding in foodie stops and hangouts along the way. The key is pretty easy:

    • Home Icon: My home base for the duration of the work
    • Red Drops: Targeted field sites
    • Airplane + Path: Target airplane flyover routes

    The work will go something like this... Eric's colleague is going to fly an airplane along the west coast, taking consecutive high-res images that we can use to map portions of the reef. Our team will trail the flight path by boat, taking various environmental measurements with both handheld instruments and probes deployed over the side. The next couple of days will be diving and snorkeling to collect underwater imagery and spectral measurements of the actual corals.

    I'm doing my best to rack up 12 dives, so I can level up by the time I get to Bermuda. (Or should I say level down? Eh? Eh?)