April 2013 Update - Preserving a reef! How would you even start? Part I

The USP reef team’s visit to Naitauba last year was an eye-opening opportunity for Naitauba Island resident staff to participate with the team and get a glimpse of a treasure beyond description—a treasure that we must protect and preserve in perpetuity, as fully as can be done. (Sadly, the challenges are severe. Some predictions say that within the next 50-100 years, coral reefs could all be destroyed by a combination of global warming, ocean acidification, and other forms of human interference.)

Since the team's visit, we have kept on with our vigil for the reef through snorkeling and diving trips within the reef, aided by everything that was passed on by the team during their visit and in their report that followed.

Monitoring and preserving a coral reef is actually a complex matter that takes sustained work, commitment, and willingness to learn.

Let's look more closely at the different aspects involved...



The tremendous advances in digital photography and imaging are transforming our ability to document and understand natural processes all over the world.

Learning to take good photographs underwater is a whole-bodily learning process! Equipped with a Canon G12 camera and underwater housing, we are moving ahead.



Learning to operate a camera while snorkeling and diving is a challenge, and there are others, too. Snorkeling at the surface of the reef, we see a world of colors and forms. Going deeper, colors and forms fade into blue. What do things really look like down there? Getting true colors requires using RAW image format and computer programs that balance out the colors and reconstruct their natural intensities. The following images, taken at depths of 4-6 meters, show the difference:


Without color-correction:                                            


With color-correction:


The photos below show one useful trick we have learned. We use ceramic tiles—white, gray, and black—as a standard color reference that we can include in our photos. This gives us a reliable benchmark when processing the images after each dive.



The 150 mm (6-inch) tile also shows us the size of the coral formations and fish that we see:


So now, let’s bring on the fish!


How many different fish species can you spot in these photos?