The reef team completes the first phase of their study of Naitauba’s reef

With much-appreciated support from many contributors around the world, the USP team completed an intensive one-week survey visit to Naitauba’s reef in early September. They worked very hard throughout their time and were able to complete the full survey at sites all the way around the Island, encompassing all the many habitats that make up the totality of the reef.

Island residents joined them on their dives inside and outside Naitauba’s reef, opening new vistas and new understanding of the work ahead.

"Preserving a reef" is a vast undertaking, and as we continue to learn from Naitauba's reef and the reef research that is being done globally, we can see that the footprint of humanity on the coral reefs of the world is much deeper than we have recognized.

During this brief intensive visit we took well over 2000 photos, and the team logged pages and pages of data from their observations on their transect survey dives. There is so much to look at and consider from all the data and many photos!

Our understanding of the reef has already grown significantly. We documented new evidence of continued regrowth on many parts of the reef—and also saw serious warning signs of damage to the reef and its inhabitants already happening more vulnerable reef areas, too. We also discovered many of the reef’s inhabitants for the first time, and will be introducing them in the weeks to come in our “reef residents” feature here and on our facebook page.

In our discussions with the reef team, we charted new plans for our work together. We can see the great importance of the protected areas and prohibitions on the taking of vulnerable species that we have established on Naitauba’s reef, and want to know more about how we can extend these measures to support the health and resilience of the entire reef ecosystem.

We bid Cherie, Lai, and Ben farewell for now, and look forward to seeing them and other members of the USP reef team back here in the coming months to take the next steps together in learning about Naitauba's reef and how to protect it.

Until then we’ll post more updates on the reef team’s findings and share many of the wonderful photos that were taken during their stay.

 

Help us bring the USP team back to Naitauba

Aerial view of Naitauba's reef

WHAT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW...

At this very moment, we are making arrangements for the USP (University of South Pacific) reef team to return to Naitauba to help us in our mission to monitor, understand, and help preserve Naitauba’s reef.

The team will be visiting Naitauba for two one-week visits approximately four months apart. The first phase of their work will commence during September’s cool weather conditions as they repeat the survey of fish, coral and invertebrate populations at key areas around the reef that they carried out in 2012. This visit, now scheduled for September 10th through 16th, will uncover more about the trends on the reef over the past two years.

The team will return in late January or early February for their second visit, during the Fijian summer, when they will be able to see firsthand how the reef responds to the elevated temperatures, which have been causing localized coral bleaching in recent years.


The USP team during its 2012 visit to Naitauba.

Using an expanded range of survey techniques, they will be identifying vulnerable areas of the reef as well as places that can be sources for re-growth. Based on their research, they will advise us on what we can do, lay the groundwork for active interventions such as transplanting healthy coral into damaged areas, and assist us in developing our own ongoing reef monitoring efforts.

During their 2012 visit, we were all deeply impressed with the reef team’s knowledge, expertise and dedication, and we could feel how much they appreciated the opportunity to visit and study a reef with so many positive life signs.

The USP’s Institute of Marine Resources is cooperating fully with us to make the project possible. They are making the team and its resources available at very reasonable rates, and adjusting their schedule to fit our regular weekly boat trips to minimize travel costs. The combined cost for the two visits will be $US 10,500.

The Naitauba Reef Initiative’s founding donors have already pledged over $3,500 for the project. Please consider supporting us in raising the rest of the funds needed. You can use the link here to make your donations through the reef website or click directly on the “Donate” tab in the menu. Any and all amounts are welcome.

To show our ongoing appreciation for your support, you will receive a free screen saver featuring a selection of gorgeous underwater photos of the reef – a gift that will serve as a beautiful reminder of Naitauba all year round.

Your support for the reef team’s visit in 2014 will help us develop the strong foundation that we will need to preserve Naitauba’s reef for all the years to come.

Hawkfish, arc-eye

 

Naitauba's sea temperature monitoring program underway! - Part II

With two men in the boat and three in the water, anchoring the loggers in place was a great chance to develop teamwork. We had pre-planned as much as we could, but coordinating everything from with free-divers at 10 meters depth was a real learning experience, especially at our first location outside the reef. Fortunately, weather and sea conditions cooperated beautifully, with excellent visibility.


Installation of Onset’s HOBO data loggers on Naitauba’s reef


Our anchors were cement-filled cinder blocks, with rope handles and a tether rope for lowering them. We added some floats to help us maneuver them down into position.

Naitauba's sea temperature monitoring program underway! - Part I

OUR SEA TEMPERATURE MONITORING PROGRAM ON NAITAUBA’S REEF IS NOW UNDERWAY!

With our Onset HOBO data loggers in hand and ready to go, the next challenge quickly emerged―we needed to place them securely on the reef and make sure we will be able to find them again when it’s time to retrieve their precious data.

We wanted the initial monitoring sites to give us the fullest representative picture of the entire reef possible.

We decided to measure sea temperatures outside the reef on the two opposite ends of the Island―the exposed eastern side, facing the oncoming trade winds, wave action, and currents,  and the more sheltered western side.

We also decided to place loggers at sites inside the reef, too, in accessible locations that are easy for us to re-locate so that we can check them frequently and so remain vigilant for rising temperatures that could threaten the reef.  

We chose a sunny Saturday afternoon for the installation. We took our underwater camera to document the process, and have included a small sample of the resulting images here...