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Coral Reef Studies on Moloka'i: a Progress Report

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Cheryl Hapke with GPS unit
Cheryl Hapke documents her location while monitoring a GPS station.
In mid-October, a team of scientists from several institutions revisited Moloka'i as part of an ongoing investigation into the condition of coral reefs along the south coast of the island. The investigation is part of the USGS/CMG effort, led by Mike Field with the assistance of Susan Cochran, to map Hawaiian coral reefs and to evaluate the impact of sedimentation and other processes on their condition.

The tasks for this part of the project included a complete differential GPS survey of the entire south coast of the island, groundtruthing of remotely sensed images, evaluation of potential underwater transect sites via SCUBA diving and snorkeling, and initiation of across-reef transects to map sediment accumulation.

ground survey of mangroves
Ground surveys by Curt Storlazzi, Cheryl Hapke, and Mimi D'iorio begin the preliminary investigation of mangrove progradation along the shoreline.
Cheryl Hapke and Mimi D'Iorio (University of California, Santa Cruz) designed the GPS survey, and Tom Reiss and Rob Britts provided the technical expertise and equipment for the extremely accurate delineation of points on the island. Using a combination of two stationary base stations and three roving stations, the team gathered nearly 80 points in three days along paved roads and jeep trails.

These positions will be used as ground control for an aerial photography survey of the island scheduled for November and December 1999. They will also provide accurate measurements from historical photographs of shoreline change and mangrove progradation.

Pat Chavez guides underwater team, using laptop
Pat Chavez guides the underwater team to locations for groundtruthing using geo-referenced images on his laptop.
Pat Chavez and Stuart Sides were on hand with processed remotely sensed images, integrating recently flown (April 1999) SHOALS (Scanning Hydrographic Operational Airborne Lidar Survey) data with aerial photography and USGS DLGs (Digital Line Graphs). The remotely sensed images were extremely useful, and it is evident from our groundtruthing of the images that they will significantly advance our ability to map coral reefs.

Paul Jokiel, coral biologist from the University of Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), and two graduate students, Will Smith and Ceil Roberts, worked with the USGS team for four days to examine potential sites to install permanent transects for monitoring coral condition. The HIMB team is collaborating with the USGS on several biological aspects of the coral reef project, as is Jim Maragos (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), who visited the team for several days.

With the assistance of Jim Lugosi and Curt Storlazzi (UC-Santa Cruz), we continued our efforts to measure sediment thickness along across-reef transects in an attempt to get a handle on the amount of muddy sediment being delivered to the coral reef system by erosion and runoff.

Our next trip is scheduled for January 2000. Plans for that trip include a public outreach lecture at the Moloka'i community center, mapping of sediment and coral cover on the reef flat, coring in selected areas of the outer reef, deployment of oceanographic instruments to measure currents, and installation of permanent underwater transects to monitor changes in the reef.

For information about our previous work on Moloka'i, please see the related story in the May 1999 issue of Sound Waves.

Related Web Sites
Scanning Hydrographic Operational Airborne Lidar Survey (SHOALS)
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Digital Line Graph (DLG) Data
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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