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Seaw rds The Marine Option Program Newsletter

December 2016

9experience “I loved getting the opportunity to go and what so few people get to do.”


December 2016 Articles

Volume XXX, Number 10

Page 3: Letter from the Editor Page 4: A Day in the Life of RAMP Cruise Intern Page 8: Exploring the Deep: Adventures of UHM MOP Page 10: Ocean Updates Page 12: Surveying the Twilight Zone Page 15: Critter of the Month Page 16: Ocean Art Page 18: Generation Blue Page 20: Marine Mammal of the Month Page 22: Flashback Page 23: Hanauma Bay Events Page 24: Calendar of Events

About the Photography -Cover: Daniel Jennings, UHM MOP Alumnus -Table of Contents: Bryan Dieter, NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center -Back cover: Jeff Kuwabara, UHM MOP Coordinator -All uncredited photos by: MOP

-Disclaimer: any photo taken from is used under the Creative Commons License and is credited appropriately with links to the user’s flickr account.

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Letter from the Editor Aloha Readers, I hope you enjoy our last issue of 2016! If you’re still debating on what courses to take that can count towards your MOP Certificate, check out our list of recommendations for the upcoming Spring 2017 semester in this issue. This issue brings it around full swing for me, personally, since my first issue as Editor was December 2015. I would also like to say “thank you” to all of our readers, writers and editors who have been a part of this publication and have helped it grow and continue to thrive. It’s been an honor to be Editor of Seawords, and I look forward to continuing as Editor for my upcoming semester. As always, please be sure to check out all of the amazing adventures MOP students are taking advantage of at all of our UH Campuses. Recently UH Hilo had MOP Students intern on the RAMP Cruise and Tyler Phelps, UHH MOP Student, also interned on the Cal Academy’s Bahamas Expedition. Mahalo for reading,

Camra Hopper, Seawords Editor Camra Hopper, Editor

Seawords Writers, Fall 2016

Jessica Lotts, Associate Editor

Sarah Franklin, UHM MOP Student

Jeremy Gasta, UHM ASC Student

Keelee Martin, UHH MOP Student

Mason Mellot, UHM MOP Student

Emily Menzies, UHM MOP Student

Tyler Phelps, UHH MOP Student

DECEMBER 2016 |3

A Day in the Life as a RAMP Cruise Intern By: Keelee Martin, UHH MOP Student

Wallingford in the midst of an Uluanado. Picture by: Andrew Gray/NOAA


t’s Monday, August 29 2016 and the NOAA ship, Hi‘ialakai, is leaving Honolulu and heading to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) for the Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (RAMP) research cruise. Since the 1980’s, MOP students and QUEST graduates have been selected to assist in monitoring the archipelago’s atoll reefs as research divers. This year’s interns were current MOP student, Ashley Pugh and recent MOP graduate, Emily Wallingford from UH Hilo. Three years ago, when Pugh was a QUEST 264 student, she sat in a fold up chair during a lecture with guest speaker, Dr. Randy Kosaki, the Deputy Superintendent for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. He spoke about the RAMP cruise and she can remember thinking how great it sounded but that, “It probably would never happen.” As the Hi‘ialakai pulls farther from shore, O‘ahu gets smaller and the ocean expands, enveloping her whole field of view. Her legs finding their balance as she leans on the railing in a state of existence she described as, “pure excitement and bliss.”

UH, and the UH Sea Grant Program all participated. Kosaki explained that, “This was the first big multi-agency push to characterize the ecosystems of the NWHI.” In 1982, Kosaki began his work in the northern Hawaiian archipelago as one of two MOP students who were selected as summer interns for DLNR and DAR to sail on a month long cruise to the NWHI as research divers. He gained this opportunity after finishing his second year of the MOP Transect Workshop, which is now recognized as QUEST 364. Kosaki says he can trace his entire career back to his participation in QUEST.

Like Kosaki, Paula Ayotte, a Marine Ecosystem Research Specialist for the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (NOAA/Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center), began her experience surveying in the NWHI after she completed QUEST in 2003. She had worked on several research projects while at UH Hilo, including the graduate project of Darla White who led the fish team on the 2005 RAMP cruise and recommend her as a fish diver. Ayotte said, “That was [her] foot in the door.” Since then Ayotte has been on seven RAMP cruises to the NWHI and several other cruises to American Samoa, the PhoeDuring the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Ricky Grigg nix Islands and the Line Islands conducting 160-400 (1937-2014), legendary big wave surfer and professor survey dives every year. of oceanography at UH Mānoa, led several cruises to the NWHI as part of the Tripartite studies. The State of This year’s interns, Pugh and Wallingford were both Hawai‘i (DLNR: Department of Land and Natural Re- strong applicants for this internship as a result of comsources and DAR: Division of Aquatic Resources), the pleting QUEST as 264 students and 364 team leaders. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (U.S.FWS), the National Pugh had gained additional experience helping with Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), other student’s MOP skill projects and graduate proj4| Seawords

ects while Wallingford had found more experience by having taken the Scientific Diver Qualification Course (SDQC). Additional diving and survey experience beyond QUEST is a “big plus” when reviewing intern applications, Kosaki says, “as several quantitative studies have shown that data quality (sizing accuracy, number of species recorded per transect, etc.) peaks after completing between 30 and 50 transects.” A more practiced diver is a more accurate surveyor. This summer’s cruise began at French Frigate Shoals and planned on surveying their way up the chain and then coming back down. The weather had different plans. During the beginning days of the cruise the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) were anticipating to be hit by category four hurricane, Madeline, followed shortly by category three hurricane, Lester. In order to avoid bad weather, the crew decided to head directly towards the farthest atoll, Kure, and survey their way back down the chain. From Kure, the Hi‘ialakai stopped at Pearl and Hermes, Lisianski, and then finished back at French Frigate Shoals. Both hurricanes ended up dissipating with only minor damages, and the RAMP cruise went on without any disturbing weather. “The first few days were an adjustment,” Pugh explained, “and then after that, everything became routine.” At 05:00 her alarm would go off and she would get out of her bunk bed in the room shared with three other girls, to get herself ready and pack her food and water for the day. From there it was off to the gear locker where it might take a measly five minutes to get dive gear ready. Her gear bag was dubbed the “body bag” because of its weight. The back plate harness BC rig is efficient and streamlined under water, but can be a real drag on the surface. After all the gear for the day was set up, there was a 30-minute window for breakfast at 07:00. At 07:30, everyone gathered for the day’s safety briefing. Each captain on every small boat would fill out an assessment of conditions for the day called the GAR (Green, Amber, Red). The GAR would address factors like equipment condition, diver health, wave conditions, etc. with point values that would be added together and

correspond to a color (green, amber, or red), essentially functioning like a stoplight to assess hazards and risks. Each diver would sign the GAR and boats would launch immediately after between 07:45-08:00. Five small boats were launched daily, each with a Captain and the survey team aboard. The small boats were divided up among the five RAMP survey teams and the accompanying scientists that used this cruise as a means of transport to the NWHI to conduct their own research. The oceanography team focused on collecting water quality data. The Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) team would collect cement blocks that were deployed the year before and scrape them clean to assess what is growing in various environments. They would also deploy more blocks for future collection. The tow team would survey benthic, algae and site characterization while tow boarding from the small boats and act as alternate divers for the fish or benthic team when they were not doing their own dives. The fish team, on which Wallingford worked on, conducted stationary point count (SPC) surveys. In addition to the near 100 fish species Wallingford had memorized for QUEST, she learned 100 more. The fish team would sometimes do up to six dives in one day. The benthic team, which included Pugh, assessed coral health which included bleaching, algal overgrowth, disease progression, predatory marks, coral condition (alive or dead) and colony size. With the sun up and no shade in sight, each team settled their gear on their small boat. Mentally, and verbally triple checking the list: tanks, survey gear, dive gear, life support, food and water, etc. Once they were ready, the team headed to their pre-calculated random GPS points

Wallingford on the small boat before a day of diving. Picture by: Emily Wallingford

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to survey. After individual team briefings from the dive “the NWHI may be the healthiest and most undisturbed leaders, it was finally time to dive. of the United States reefs... possibly [comprising] the last, large-scale, apex predator-dominated coral reef Dive one: ecosystem on Earth.” The shift in ecosystem dynamics At the surface Pugh takes a deep breath before putting is one thing to get used to while surveying, another is in her regulator and descending; it was less about oxy- finding an efficient rhythm with your dive team. gen and more about being calm. Her heart was pumpResearch cruises are massive scientific ventures that reing and nervous excitement charged through her. It was quire standards to be met in order to complete research a new dive team, with new survey methods she had just on time, collect quality data and function at optimal learned, but within the next few days, it would all beperformance. QUEST is often described as “diving income an efficient routine. Lather, rinse, repeat. But now, tensive” with two dives per day. The RAMP cruise surveyors perform 4-6 dives per day. The benthic team usually did four dives a day, sometimes five. The first dive is deep between 70-80 feet, the next two are mid-depth between 30-60 feet and the last dive(s) would be 20 feet or shallower. Sometimes when descending the bottom was in not view and so, “you never knew what you were going to get on those deep dives,” Pugh said. In order to conduct their coral surveys there needed to be at least 25% hard bottom to be a survey site, otherwise they would move on to another pre-calculated random GPS point. Dive time ranged between 25-70 minutes. Their tanks were a nitrox mix which has a higher percentage Pugh taking photo quad pictures with a monopod around of oxygen, allowing them slightly longer dive times. In 70ft. at Lisianski, an Ulua keeping a close watch. Picture addition, to their surveys, the benthic team also did by: Brett Schumacher (from the tow team). photo quads along each transect and would sometimes drop a CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) device off their small boat for the oceanography team. this first dive was all thrill. The sky turns into deep blue, light beams piercing through like gemstone prisms. Pugh’s favorite dive was at La Perouse Pinnacle, the Bubbles drifted upward while her eyes take in views of 120-foot-tall remnant of the original volcano at French the deep, into ecosystems few people will ever see. Frigate Shoals. She learned 58 new species of corals and saw new species on nearly every dive, but on her last During that first dive, the benthic team had their first indive at La Perouse she saw the greatest number of new teractions with a curious Ulua, or giant trevally (Caranx species for the first time. There is an undeniable nerdy ignobilis) that went after the transect tape. Animals in glory in learning a new species from a picture and then the NWHI do not regularly interact with humans and recognizing it for the first time in the water. as a result are very curious and unafraid of getting close. Humorously named after the movie “Sharknado,” ulua The dive teams usually finished their surveys around are commonly seen in massive “uluanados” with hun- dinner time and the small boats would head back todreds of questioning eyes staring back at you. Galapa- wards the Hi‘ialakai. Once back on the ship, dive gear gos sharks (Carcharhinus galapagensis) are also known was rinsed and hung up to dry for the next day. There to investigate these strange visitors during safety stops. was an hour window for dinner and people would come Pugh liked their company and said that usually eye con- in, eat, and go as there are not enough seats for all of tact would transform their curiosity into something re- the people on the ship to eat dinner at the same place sembling bashfulness and they would swim away. Wall- at one time. The rest of the evening was into split data ingford also appreciated seeing the large apex predators, entry in the dry lab, the ship band’s nightly ukulele jam, especially commenting on how many sharks there were. an optional movie, and 15 minutes to shop in the ship NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program writes that, store for snacks. 6| Seawords

Data entry is best when completed the day they are collected. After a long day of diving, the brain tends to go on autopilot while the data are inputted into the system. For this reason, all data undergoes a quality check before submission. For example, if you inputted coral health data you would count the number of coral colonies on your data-sheet and cross reference it with the number you entered, you would check that the length and width dimensions were entered in the proper order and make sure that the coral species codes entered were representative of Hawaiian species. Kosaki explains that, “This is not an internship where the data collected are just for a class project. The data are ‘real,’ and are a part of our coral reef monitoring program. We’ve used RAMP data collected by MOP students in numerous peer-reviewed scientific journal publications.” This is said to emphasize the level of quality data they require.

QUEST is a unique opportunity, one that Kosaki says, “doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country.” Such an opportunity opens many doors. Wallingford calls her experience, “absolutely incredible.” It’s already something to be able to witness some of the most untouched reefs in the world but, “getting to live and work with a group of [such] experienced [and] awesome scientists [is] an added perk!” This said, if you’re thinking about applying as a RAMP intern, this is what Kosaki has to say about the applicants he looks for.

“We look for promising students who are likely to enter the fields of marine science or marine natural resource management, especially here in Hawai‘i. Safety, of course, is always the greatest concern, and we look for students with good water safety and dive safety skills. A close second to safety is data quality, i.e. the ability to accurately identify and count marine organisms…FiMost nights Pugh was in bed by 21:00 to wake up and nally, a good attitude is a must, because working at sea do it again the next day. By the end of the 20 days of in close quarters for long periods requires more than diving the whole system is flawlessly practiced and rou- the minimum in terms of social skills and teamwork.” tinely executed. RAMP interns have the opportunity to Ayotte agrees and adds that when she reviews appliget, “hands-on, real world experience working side-bycants she considers the student’s recommendations and side with NOAA and other scientists,” and many RAMP that, “If I know a diver has a very strong work ethic, has alumni are invited on other NOAA cruises, Kosaki says. a positive attitude, is physically fit and can work long It takes a very practiced and professional team player hours without complaint, that counts a lot...I want to to be a part of this NWHI research cruise. Pugh elaboknow that the person can work well in a team and can rates that it is important to be able to be adaptable and get along with everyone.” easy going and to have personal awareness of how you handle stressful situations and to know when you need Being an intern for the RAMP cruise is extremely coma break. It is important to have enough experience in petitive, but being a part of the MOP/QUEST commuscientific diving that you are comfortable and confident nity is a big advantage and should be used as a tool to in the water. You can be trained to learn [RAMP’s] sur- develop and practice your skills if your ambition is to be vey techniques, but they expect to be able to build on a research diver, especially in Hawai‘i. Ayotte says that your ability to be a safe, working diver,” Pugh concludes. there are usually 3-5 former MOP students on every RAMP cruise, which is to say that the hard work pays A partnership has been in place between MOP and off and that it is not unlikely that your MOP peers now NOAA since the 1980’s but in the last five years has will be your co-workers in the future. n become more formalized through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between UH Hilo and NOAA providing funding for diver training through QUEST and guaranteed quality divers for the RAMP internship. Tuition stipends and partial scholarships are awarded to several students as NOAA invests in potential divers for their cruises. Every year, there are 2-4 spots designated for QUEST graduates as RAMP cruise interns. This partnership allows for more MOP students to be trained in science diving and assures the cream of the crop for NOAA to choose from when looking for divers. Table coral, Acropora cytherea at French Frigate Shoals. Picture by: Ashley Pugh DECEMBER 2016 |7

Exploring the Deep:

Adventures of UHM MOP


By: Camra Hopper, Editor

n October 29, 2016, MOP students went on a tour along the ocean floor of Waikīkī with Atlantis Submarines Hawai‘i, where they visited two shipwrecks, (USS YO-257 and the San Pedro), a plane wreck (YS-11) and an artificial reef.

“The best part about the tour was seeing the different sunken airplanes and ships and how that sparked a new opportunity for it to become a marine habitat,” Alexa Gonzalez, UHM The 48-passenger submarine took students to the depths MOP Student Coordinaof 106 feet where they were visited by several species tor. of fish, a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), big ulua (Caranx ignobilis), and a broad stingray (Dasyatis lata). An artificial reef is a human-made underwater “It was exciting to see the sea life interacting with each structure built to promote other,” Analyse Houston, UHM MOP Student, said. “But marine life in areas with no the most exciting part was seeing the sunken structures structure, to control erothat help support the ecosystems and the stingray.” sion, block ship passage, Atlantis Submarines has been providing humans access or improve surfing. Other to the ocean floor comfortably since 1988, using their types of artificial reefs are environmentally safe submarines that are battery pow- crash sites, such as the ones ered, emit no pollutants, and quietly move through the visited by MOP students water. They have also built artificial reefs to allow bio- during their tour, YO-257, diversity to flourish in areas that were once bare of life. San Pedro, and YS-11.

The hull of YO-257, 174 feet Yard Oiler of the United States Navy built in the 1940s is now used as an artificial reef and tour site by Atlantis Submarines Hawai‘i. Photo by Camra Hopper, Editor. 8| Seawords

UHM MOP Students before they Submarine Tour in Photo by: Atlantis Subm

“The tour was very successful for the students,” Alexa said. “All of us have a strong interest in marine life, so we knew most of the organisms we were looking at but the tour guide gave us even more facts about all of the creatures as well as background knowledge about the sunken structures we saw.” USS YO-257 was a 174 feet Yard Oiler of the United States Navy that now lies on the bottom of the ocean, two miles off Waikīkī. It was originally built in the 1940s and was used during World War II, the Korean War, and in the Vietnam War. After decommissioning, the ship was purchased by Atlantis Submarines, who sank it as an artificial reef, now flourishing with sea life.

y boarded the ship for the Atlantis Waikīkī, Honolulu. marines Hawai‘i Crew.

Honu aboard the San Pedro, 80-foot long Japanese commercial ship built in 1946, which was bought by Atlantis Submarines Hawai‘i as an artificial reef, after it caught on fire. Photo by Camra Hopper, Editor. out well,” Atlantis Submarines tour captain said.

The next wreck site is the YS-11, which sits at 115 feet. YS-11 is a turboprop airliner built by the Japanese consortium in 1965. Atlantis Submarines also bought this Just next door to YO-257 plane from Mid Pacific airlines to be sunk as an artificial is San Pedro, she was built reef, but a hurricane during the 1990s struck the island, in 1946 in Japan and is 80- breaking up the plane into three pieces. feet long. Originally she “I loved getting the opportunity to go and experience was used as a commercial what so few people get to do,” Houston said. n fishing vessel that operated off the Big Island until the 1970s when it caught on fire. “…crew members aboard attempted to put out the fire using the only cargo they had: beer and soy sauce. It didn’t work

Remaining pieces of YS-11, built in 1965 by Nihon Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation, but after the 1990s hurricane it was bought by Atlantis Submarines Hawai‘i to be used as an artificial reef. Photo by: Camra Hopper, Editor. DECEMBER 2016 |9

cean updates

By Emily Menzies, UHM MOP Student

Hydrothermal methane vent on the ocean floor. Photo by NOAA Ocean Explorer.

Discovery of 500 Bubbling Methane Vents

to increasing ocean temperatures. They found that the phytoplankton reproduce faster than usual as condiAlong the U.S. west coast, 500 vents that seep methane tions are warmed but the overall size of the population have been located by Dr. Robert Ballard, RMS Titanic blooms remained the same. In addition, the team found explorer. “It appears that the entire coast off Washingthat bacteria were consumed faster by protozoa, viruses, ton, Oregon and California is a giant methane seep,” and other single-celled organisms that eat Synechococsaid Ballard. The discovery doubles the amount of cus. known vents that exist along the continental margins of the U.S. to over 500. Since methane is a powerful green- As the shift changes earlier each year, scientists are worhouse gas, it is important to know how much is released ried about the ecosystem. They fear that if the bloom happens sooner every year, then the higher-level connaturally from the ocean floor. sumers, which rely on the lower-level consumers for Dr. Ballard and his team, however, still have questions food at a specific time each year, may miss them entirely. about these vents because it “is an area ripe for discovery.” They are still trying to find out how many seeps Understanding how the ecosystems are affected by exist and how much, if any, methane makes it into the changes in the Earth’s temperatures will allow a greater atmosphere. In the future, more research will be con- perspective of how even the smallest of organisms are ducted in efforts to explain how hydrocarbons act at being affected and changing the environment around depth underwater and within the geological structure them. of the ocean floor.

El Nino likely played a role in East Polynesia Set13-year old study shows effects of changing ocean tlement temperature on phytoplankton Using computer simulations and climatic data, Dr. Scott

Fitzpatrick, an anthropologist at the University of Oregon, and his team have analyzed sailing routes across the Pacific. The paper they published “Using Seafaring Simulations and ‘Shortest Hop’ Trajectories to Model the Prehistoric Colonization of Remote Oceania” (2016) shows simulations of El Niño Southern Oscillation patterns. These simulations take into account high-resoOver the past 13 years, scientists have been monitoring lution data of winds, ocean currents, land distribution, Synechococcus blooms and how they have been reacting and precipitation. A multi-year study shows how Synechococcus, a key species of phytoplankton, is affected by changes in ocean temperature. The study has been able to show that as ocean temperatures have increased over time, algal blooms have occurred up to four weeks early and also that the cells divide faster in warmer conditions.

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Fitzpatrick believes that Polynesian settlers most likely knew about El Niño because archaeological evidence throughout the islands reflects drought and fires which occur during El Niño season. Since winds and precipitation shift from westerly to easterly during El Niño, traveling to remote Oceania would have been more favorable. Some of the findings challenge current archaeological theories, while other data support existing lines of evidence. Their research suggests that Samoa was most likely the staging area for East Polynesia. It also adds evidence that Hawai’i and New Zealand may have been settled from the Marquesas or Society Islands. Although scientists and researchers may be able to explain where and when the settlers came from, they may never be able to explain what drove the movement. Why take a risk of a potentially fruitless 2,500 miles? This is a question that historians, archaeologists, and scientists alike may never be able to answer.

reproductive output. Although damselfish are usually short lived, at deeper depths they can live for more than a decade. Since deeper reef fishes are not as prone to humancaused eradication and natural destruction, researchers wanted to know if they are able to support robust fish populations on the shallower reefs. They found that as water depth increased, population density decreased, but the number of BOFFFFs increased. The offspring of the BOFFFFs hatch from larger eggs and have a higher survival rate, which contributes to the populations in the shallow water environments.

Mapping of the Black Sea reveals over 40 shipwrecks

When a maritime archaeology team launched an expedition to map the ancient landscape of the Black Sea, they found over 40 ancient shipwrecks, some of which are dated from the Ottoman and Byzantine Empire. An international research team led by the University Importance of BOFFFFs of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology has been surveying an area of submerged land that was BOFFFF: Big, old, fat, fecund, female fish. flooded after sea level rose during the last Ice Age. They Research from Oregon State University and University wanted to look at the effects sea level rise has on populaof Miami shows the importance of BOFFFFs in ma- tions along the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea. rine ecosystems. They are important to marine ecosystems because they The vessel used for their expedition, Stril Explorer, was reproduce and keep equipped with advanced underwater survey systems. populations healthy Stril Explorer has Remotely Operated Vehicles for high Populations of coral resolution 3D photogrammetry and videos. It also has reef fish in shallow- geophysical instrumentation and a laser scanner. er, more vulnerable Due to the anoxic conditions of the benthic of the Black habitats are depen- Sea, the wrecks have been well preserved and have been dent on deeper reefs lying on the seafloor for centuries. Some of the wrecks that have larger, older were only known from historical written documents fishes with high re- and the actual ship had never been found before now. productive rates, or The wrecks provide new data on the “maritime interBOFFFFs. connectivity of Black Sea coastal communities and The research teams manifest ways of life and seafaring that stretch back into looked at damsel- prehistory,” said Jon Adams, University of Southampfish off the coast of ton. n Florida at three different depths: less than 10m, 20-30m, and 30-150m. They studied the population density, individual’s size and growth, and

DECEMBER 2016 |11

Surveying the Twilight Zone Reflections from the Cal Academy Bahamas Expedition Tyler Phelps, UHH MOP Student Phelps admiring the diverse benthic habitat off the Cay Sal drop off. Photo taken by Chief Scientist, Dr. Luiz Rocha. It’s dark. It’s cold. My dive computer displays “230 feet.” All three oxygen sensors are reading normal. I glance up to see an interesting species of fish. The tiny black and purple wrasse darts away. Swimming over to look, I see three flashes of green light out of the corner of my mask. “Blink, blink, blink.” The redundant heads up display confirms my oxygen sensors are reading normal. I hear a high pitched gurgling sound but can make out the words, “Over here, Tyler.” I turn around to my dive buddy, Dr. Yannis Papastamatiou, Florida International University. My helium pitched voice replies, “Coming!” The transect line is tied off in his hand, ready to begin another survey. He begins to swim ahead with camera in hand, hoping to record species of fish. I look down at my computer, all systems reading normal. I reach down to my dive light and illuminate the reef. The camera is rolling and I begin my slow chase after Yannis. “Blink, blink.” Only two blinks this time, I need to add more oxygen. Pausing, I touch my right chest and activate the manual addition valve. “Blink, blink, blink.” I proceed, aiming my camera down to record the bottom composition. I glance over the line to admire the sheer wall descending to the black abyss, beyond sight. We finish the survey and roll up the 12| Seawords

transect line. I glance down at my computer. “Time to surface 60 minutes.” I switch to my left arm and my backup computer confirms this. We signal a thumbs up to each other. It’s time to start our ascent and begin our hour of decompression.

Through their global expeditions, Cal Academy has built a comprehensive database from their mesophotic research. Originally, the objective of this mission was to record the impacts of invasive lionfish in the Bahamas. However, with the devastation that Hurricane MatThe California Academy of Sciencthew caused, the mission became to es (Cal Academy) has been at the assess the impacts of the hurricane forefront of mesophotic research. on deep reefs. This study was the Mesophotic coral reefs are found first of its kind for mesophotic reefs. ranging from a depth of 100ft/30m to 500ft/150m. As most are beyond The expedition began out of Miami, the range of recreational SCUBA Florida, where we met up with the diving, they remain virtually un- 170ft, 550 ton ship, M/V Umbra. explored. Accessing them requires The Umbra is the private sister ship a high degree of training with ad- to the renowned M/V Alucia (the vanced diving technology such as same that filmed the giant squid, mixed gas closed circuit rebreathers. Architeuthis dux for the first time Cal Academy researchers have de- and found the Air France plane). scribed dozens of new species along Umbra came well equipped with 12 their global initiative to understand elite cherry-picked crew, a 32ft tenthe organisms inhabiting the “Twi- der dive boat with crane to deploy, light Zone.” full dive operations support including compressors, media lab for proAs a rising mesophotic researcher fessional video processing, and an with a competent scientific divenormous helipad. ing background from QUEST, I was able to network with the vari- On day one of the expedition, we unous researchers I have been idoliz- loaded several hundreds of pounds ing. The Cal Academy Mesophotic of dive equipment onto the ship. Team completes an average of four This included dozens of bailout cylexpeditions per year. After making inders, seven rebreathers, four diver arrangements with all of my profes- propulsion vehicles, cinema quality sors, I was honored and privileged video cameras, hundreds of pounds to accept their invitation on their of carbon dioxide absorbent for the two week expedition in the Baha- rebreathers, and just about every mas! piece of safety equipment imagin-


ship, each diver would grab their After a checkout dive and stocking gear to load onto up on provisions, the ship left Mithe tender boat ami bound for the Bahamas. Unforand left for the tunately due to complications with dive site. With my travel documents, I was unable each aquanaut to join the ship for the crossing and in their wetsuit, first dive day. This taught me a valuwe climbed into able lesson to ensure all of your imour rebreathmigration information is together ers. Once the before leaving home! Embarrassteam was ready, ingly, I flew from Miami to Nassau, everyone went Bahamas after my paperwork was in through a team order. A taxi ride to an ocean-side Diving Safety Officer, Mauritius Bell, programming his pre-dive checkbar allowed me to meet up with the breathing gases into his computer. Dr. Bart Shepherd, Direclist before entender boat that brought me out to tor of Steinhart Aquarium, packs a scrubber that will remove tering into the the meet up with the ship. the carbon dioxide in his rebreather. Post-doc, Dr. Hudson water. Crew Pinheiro analyzes his gases. Every day on the Umbra was event- handed us cylPhotos by Tyler Phelps, UHH MOP Student ful. We began the day with a morn- inders, cameras, ing breakfast or coffee from 7:00- spears, transects, After the red SMB was deployed, 8:00 a.m. The next couple of hours totaling about 150 pounds worth of the support team descended to acwas spent preparing for the dive. equipment. company us for our decompression. Typically it was a last minute analyThe support team consisted of two The diving was broken up into two sis of rebreather’s gases, checking safety divers and two videographers. teams, each carrying its own flag bailout gases and regulators, gathThese filmmakers, armed with camso the tender boat could monitor ering the surveying equipment, and eras that cost more than my tuition, them. Team one consisted of the going through an extremely detailed shot footage of us at these shallower prestigious Cal Academy research checklist for the rebreather. Around depths to use for the documentary divers that conducted surveys up 10:00 a.m. was the first safety briefthat is being made. to 412ft/125m. Team two consisted ing discussing the roles and logistics of myself and Yannis that surveyed The longest dive my team made for the crew during the day’s dive. at a maximum of 230ft/70m. After was four hours. While capturing Shortly after was the dive briefing both teams finished their transects, two potential new species of fish where we planned the maximum we regrouped at 130ft/40m during at 400ft/120m, team one accrued depth for each team, total runtime of decompression. If at any time there a lengthy decompression resulting the dive, team member responsibiliwas an emergency, each diver car- in a five and a half hour dive. Once ties, and always, a review of emerried a yellow surface marker buoy we surfaced and got loaded back gency procedures. After that, it was (SMB) that could be sent to the sur- into the boat, we put as many calogame on! If we weren’t diving off the face. Standby divers would enter the ries in our starving mouths as we water to assess the could. On the ship, post-dive mainemergency, and tenance began as the Umbra pulled bring additional anchor and started us towards the bailout gas if need- next island. All the equipment was ed. Fortunately we thoroughly rinsed. The rebreathers’ never had to do breathing loops were disinfected this and a red SMB and carbon dioxide scrubbers were was sent up indi- discarded. After maintenance was cating that opera- done, we had some down time to tions were normal. relax and catch up on emails. Then The Umbra leaving Miami, bound for the Bahamas. Photo by Tyler Phelps, UHH MOP Student. DECEMBER 2016 |13

it was right back to prepping for the next dive. We were spoiled with a gourmet meal and occasionally watched a movie before heading to bed.

While some appeared better than others, all the reefs had one thing in common, sediment. The deep reefs that were furthest away from beaches had the least amount, although we did find sediment covering the The ship took us all over the Bahamas, visiting some insides of sponges, and smothering corals at most sites. islands that were uninhabited by people. Every reef that One uninhabited island in particular, Plana Cay, comes we dove had never been seen before. We witnessed sheer to mind. We found coral walls descending to over a and sponges that had brothousand feet. Caribbean ken off and tumbled down reef sharks visited us on hundreds of feet. The reef most dives. During our on the drop off was blandive at Rum Cay, I had keted by white sediment, speared a lionfish to anaresembling thick snow lyze its stomach contents. on a mountainside. It was This attracted two adult clear that the hurricane female reef sharks. The did have detrimental efsharks circled us for an fects on the deep reefs. hour and half, sometimes coming only a couple feet I am extremely grateful to away. As they were startthe Cal Academy team for ing to become more agproviding me with this gressive, I sacrificed my incredible experience. “data” to witness a feed- Phelps and Dr. Yannis Papastamatiou maintaining their However, I would not stop during decompression. Photo by Chief Scientist, Dr. ing frenzy happen right have been in this position Luiz Rocha. in front of me! if it were not for my scientific diver training at QUEST. Through MOP I was able Most of the reefs we visited had an admirable amount of to take this course that has absolutely changed my life. biodiversity. Unique fishes of every color could be seen To the aspiring marine scientists reading this, I wholebelow 100ft/30m. The benthic substrate was sprinkled heartedly encourage you to pursue QUEST. Your scienwith giant barrel sponges, Gorgonian corals, and diverse tific diver training can take you all over the world, from algae communities. One of the most rewarding things our shallow reefs, to surveying the twilight zone. n I witnessed was on our last dive. I observed sponges that played a foundational role in their own ecosystems. These large invertebrates had symbiotic relationships with Cnidarians, they also played home to many species of fish, algae, Crustaceans, other sponges and even coral!

Phelps conducting a benthic survey on a reef never before seen at 230ft/70m. Photo by Chief Scientist, Dr. Luiz Rocha. 14| Seawords

critter of the month Finger Staghorn Coral Distribution: Common throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans and in the Red Sea. Habitat: Exposed reef slopes and reef flats with high current. Diet: Symbiotic relationship with Symbiodinium, but they can also capture planktonic animals and microscopic food particles from the water column. Coloration: Commonly blue, cream, brown, or red with blue or cream colored tips, however the hybrid colors are almost too numerous to count. IUCN Status: Near threatened (NT).

Picture by Ryan McMinds, Flickr.

By Mason Mellott, UHM MOP Student


cropora humilis, commonly known as the finger staghorn coral, is a very common reef-building coral around the world. The species is found throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans as well as the Red Sea. A. humilis is found in many popular destinations, such as the entire east coast of Australia, including the Great Barrier Reef. Interestingly, it is not found in the main Hawaiian Islands, but occurs in the northwestern part of the archipelago. This species of coral has thick branches that grow in an overall dome-shape. A. humilis generally lives on exposed reefs with high water currents, but can tolerate a wide variety of conditions including turbid waters, rough waves, low light, full sunlight, and even full air exposure at low tide. In the wild these corals will obtain most of their nutrients through their symbiotic relationship with Symbiodinium, a type of marine algae. Although A. humilis primarily feeds in this manner, the species can also capture planktonic organisms and microscopic food items if necessary. The Finger Staghorn Coral reaches sexual maturity at 3 to 5 years old, at an approximate branch diameter of 4-7 cm. The species is hermaphroditic (male and female gametes in the same polyp) and is capable of reproducing both sexually and asexually. In the wild, the most common form of reproduction is sexual, with a single coral releasing sperm and eggs into the water simultaneously. The sperm and egg join to become a fertilized egg that turns into a planula larva. This larva will eventually settle on the reef and a tiny polyp will begin to form and excrete calcium carbonate, developing into a new colony. A. humilis also fragments very easily. Fragments can form new colonies, making this species particularly easy to propagate in captivity. A. humilis is susceptible to bleaching when stressed and will die quite rapidly when such a disturbance happens. The finger staghorn coral is also at risk of many coral diseases including white and black band disease, necrosis and rapid tissue necrosis. All of these factors, along with habitat loss and a rapidly changing ocean environment have led to A. humilis being classified as near-threatened on the IUCN Red List. While this conservation status is not the worst case for a species, corals are very fragile organisms that are projected to fare poorly as ocean temperatures change. n DECEMBER 2016 |15

ocean art

16| Seawords

“Beneath the Surface”

By Sarah Franklin, UHM MOP Student This is artwork was created using acrylic on canvas. It is recreated from a memory I had while free diving. I looked up to see the light cascading through the water so perfectly. It outlined all the marine life and made them look so magical. The ray in this piece is my dive buddy, but is romantically portrayed as a ray.

DECEMBER 2016 |17


Actions for the Ocean


By Jessica Lotts, Associate Editor

It’s been just over one year since NOAA declared the third ever global coral bleaching event that severely impacted Hawai‘i and many other reef systems. Record ocean temperatures are spreading worldwide, causing the destruction of some of our most precious reef ecosystems. Coral reefs are believed by many to show the highest biodiversity of any other marine ecosystem on the planet, supporting about 25 percent of all marine life, according to the Coral Reef Alliance. SARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies has reported that over 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has suffered bleaching, and NOAA has predicted this bleaching event will last until the end of 2016, at least. With such a dependency on coral reefs for survival, their protection should be at the top of our to-do list. Below are some ways you and your friends can help lessen the toll the reefs are taking:

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Background Photo by Sarah Depper, Flickr

THE OCEAN SPANS OVER 70 PERCENT OF OUR WORLD. It is responsible for regulating temperature, food production, sustaining numerous marine species, and is a source of inspiration for many. The ocean gives us so much and it is time for us to return the favor and take actions to make the ocean ecosystem healthy again. Almost every action that we take affects the ocean in some way. Our everyday choices can be tailored to support a healthy ocean. Here are some examples of green acts that will keep the ocean blue.


Choose to do activities through companies that are eco-friendly and strive not to leave any impact. To look up some eco-friendly activities, check out Hawaii’s eco-tourism website at:


Taken by Bhautikjoshi, Flickr

Maintain proper diving etiquette. Exploring local reefs is a great way to feel connected to the sea, but maintaining proper diving techniques can prevent harm to yourself, and the reef. Some things to keep in mind are: - Maintain good buoyancy - Don’t use the corals to get your balance - Avoid dangling gauges and regulators - Be mindful of your fins hitting the reef as you kick


Taken by Robert Postma, Flickr

Go with the motto, “Take only pictures, leave only bubbles.” Coral reefs can be a truly breathtaking site and the urge to bring home a souvenir may be strong, however it is better for the overall health of the reef to leave everything in place. This goes hand in hand with not leaving behind anything that you brought. Take home any trash or food that you came with, and leave the environment exactly as you found it.

Taken by Bridget Ames, Flickr

DECEMBER 2016 |19

Lonely Whale Scientific Name: Unknown Species: blue-fin hybrid(?) Range: Scattered Worldwide Size: Unknown Estimated population: One-two

Marine Mammal of the Month:

By Jeremy Gasta, UHM American Cetacean Soc


he depths of the sea hide many mysteries. New, never-before-seen species are found every year, and mind-boggling phenomena such as hydrothermal vents and underwater “lakes” (due to their water being denser than their surroundings) have been just a couple of the astounding mysteries of the ocean that science has uncovered over the years. But one of the more intriguing oceanic puzzles has come from an individual creature that, despite decades worth of gathered scientific data, has never been seen by humans and whose species is still unknown. This mysterious creature has been dubbed “The Loneliest Whale.”

“52 blue,” or even just “52”). This is a much higher frequency than what other whales sing at, to the point where some great cetaceans may not even be able to hear these calls. Tracking this unseen creature by its songs, marine biologists have learned its migration routes and movements, but have also deduced that this odd-calling cetacean seems to be the only individual singing at this frequency. Many who have heard of its tale have romanticized the animal as a lone oceanic wanderer constantly calling for companionship, but never getting a response, granting it the popular title as the “Loneliest Whale.” While this creature may be lonely among whale-kind, it’s very popular among First picked up over underwater hyits human sympathizers. drophones in 1992, this creature’s whale song was seen as an odd- So just what is this enigmatic creaity due to the high frequency with ture? Despite being tracked for over which it sung – one of 52 hertz (thus twenty years now, nobody has ever earning it the nickname “52 Hertz,” seen 52, and it’s only known by its

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unique cry. We do know it’s a whale due the intonations and patterns of its song, but things become trickier when researchers attempt to pinpoint a certain species. Its movements have been tracked by hydrophones picking up its distinct calls across the Pacific, and while it appears to have a migration pattern similar to that of blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), the timing of its movements seems more akin to a fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus). However, it seems unlikely to be either of them, as the frequency of blue whale songs usually range from 10-20 hertz (with a maximum of 40) and fin whale song tends to stay constant around 20 hertz. In other words, 52’s behavior doesn’t seem to match up with any known whale species. So what could this cryptic animal be? There are several possibilities. One poses that the whale is deaf,


The Lonely Whale Foundation is dedicated to bringing people closer to the world’s oceans through education and awareness, inspiring empathy and action for ocean health and the wellbeing of marine wildlife. Artwork by therefore doesn’t recognize that it sounds different than others of its kind. Another, more popular theory, is that 52 is a hybrid whale. While this might sound like the stuff of science fiction at first glance, wild hybrid offspring of blue and fin whales have been verified several times in nature, which could go to explain 52’s off-pitch calls and blue-whalelike behavior. Even more tantalizing, the call of a wild blue-fin hybrid has never been recorded, meaning that a frequency of 52 hertz could potentially be natural for them. Another, simpler possibility is that the Loneliest Whale simply has a deformity that causes it to sing at an unusual frequency. If this happens to be the case, it’s clear that this deformity has not adversely affected 52’s health, as researchers have been tracking the same individual for nearly two and a half decades. Furthermore, despite its name, 52’s calls have actually dropped in frequency over the

years to about 48 hertz, signifying that it has grown in size and matured (though even this newer low frequency is still higher than other whales). The mystery surrounding 52 has only been growing in recent years. Its original discoverer, Bill Watkins, a marine biologist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, tracked 52 every year via hydrophone from its first recording in 1989, until Bill’s death in 2004. Research for the whale picked up again in 2010, in which 52’s calls were once again heard off of the coast of California – but this time with a twist. Two sensors, a large distance apart, picked up the wellknown 52 hertz signal around the same time, a distance that was supposedly too far for a single whale’s calls to reach. Does this mean that the world’s loneliest whale might not be so lonely anymore? Could it

be that the 2010 recordings are different individuals from 52 entirely, and the much-studied 52 could have been a lone wanderer originally heralding from a larger group of similar cetaceans? Does this mean that the mysterious whales calling out at frequencies of 52 hertz could be more common than originally thought, either a community of hybrids or even an unknown species? An expedition to find the elusive 52, and place a tracking tag on it is currently underway, in the hopes that scientists will finally be able to give this mysterious marine mammal a proper identity. However, until that happens, old 52 Hertz will continue to go down in public memory as the world’s Loneliest Whale. n

DECEMBER 2016 |21



n the January 1997 issue of Seawords, rese shark, Rhincodon typu, carrying 300 you was harpooned by Taiwanese fishermen about 16 to 25 inches long and 15 of them suspected that one of the young lived and wa um. Before this discovery, it was believed that egg cases outside of the body, rather than inside. Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the world, yet these are gentle marine giants that roam the oceans alone. The only time they have been spotted in large numbers is in feeding areas with abundant plankton food, which they swallow using their enormous, five-foot wide mouths.

World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) uses the unique individual patterns of spots on whale sharks, which work like human fingerprints, to allow individual sharks to be By: Camra Hopper, Editor identified. Using this method, WWF has identified 458 different whale sharks in the Philippines. There are two subpopulations of whale sharks that exist in the Atlantic Ocean and Indo-Pacific, but 75% of the global whale shark population is found the Indo-Pacific. As of February 2016 there were 7,011 individual sharks submitted to the online database, Wildbook for Whale Sharks, by researches and the public using their unique spot patterns. IUCN Red List has issued the species as Endangered, as the population has declined by 50% within just the last 75 years.

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Fish Flow: from their • •

High-reso mesophot across Pe • •

Nutrient c by the inv in Kāne‘oh • •

• • • •

earchers reported on a female whale ung. This 35-foot long whale shark for examination. Each embryo was m were still alive. At the time, it was as transferred to a Japanese aquariwhale shark embryos hatched from

December 2016

Hawai‘i Sea Grant Graduate Trainees

4 December

: how far would fish go to get away r parents?

11 December •

olution ensemble modeling of tic scleractinian coral distribution enguin Bank, Molokaʻi

cycling and seawater pumping rates vasive sponge Mycale grandis he Bay, O‘ahu

From the wastewater up: how climate change affects groundwater and wastewater management • •

Planning for sea level rise: building healthier and stronger coastal communities • •

Crabbing and connectivity: science for sustainability • •

• • •

DECEMBER 2016 |23

MOP Certificate Courses: Spring 2017 Course Number

Course Name


INTERDISCIPLINARY MARINE COURSE: 3 cr. To show Human Impacts on the Ocean – 9 Credits total BIOL 301L Marine Ecol and Evol Lab 5 ZOOL 410 Corals and Coral Reefs 3 BOT/ZOOL 450 Natural Hist of Hawn Islands 3 PACS 108 Pacific Worlds 3 PACS 201 Islands of Globalization 3 PACS 302 Contemporary Issues in Oceania 3 PACS 303 Pac Arts, Ritual & Performance 3 OCN 310 Global Environmental Change 3 OCN 320 Aquatic Pollution 3 OCN 340 Disease Ecology 3 GEOG 302 Global Environmental Issues 3 These courses must be cleared through MOP – All courses must be 50% or more marine related. *Please double check with the instructor to clarify.* AMST 212 Contemp Amer Global Issues 3 AMST 211 Contemp Amer Domestic Issues 3 BOT 444 Ethnoecology and Conservation 3 NREM 302 Natural Resource & Env Policy 3 ES 320 Hawaii & the Pacific 3 ES 392 Change in Pacific - Polynesia 3 GEOG 401 Climate Change 3 GEOG 423 Marine Policy 3 GEOG 330 Culture & Environment 3 GEOG 322 Globalization and Environment 3 ANTH 385C Undergrad Sem: Ethnography 3 (Anthropology of Surfing) BIOL 360 Island Ecosystems 3 ZOOL 465 Fish Systematics 3 ZOOL 475 Biology of the Invertebrates 3

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If you are interested in submitting articles, photography, or art to Seawords, send us an email at with the subject line “Student submission.” We accept submissions year round.

Seawords Volume XXX Number 10, December 2016 Editor: Camra Hopper Associate Editor: Jessica Lotts Dr. Cynthia Hunter (éminence grise) Jeffery Kuwabara (éminence grise) Seawords - Marine Option Program University of Hawai‘i, College of Natural Sciences 2450 Campus Road, Dean Hall 105A Honolulu, HI 96822-2219 Telephone: (808) 956-8433 Email: <> Website: <> Seawords is the monthly newsletter of the Marine Option Program at the University of Hawai‘i. Opinions expressed herein are not necessariliy those of the Marine Option Program or of the University of Hawai‘i. Suggestions and submissions are welcome. Submissions may include articles, photography, art work, or anything that may be of interest to the marine community in Hawai‘i and around the world. All photos are taken by MOP unless otherwise credited.

Gilded triggerfish (Xanthichthys auromarginatus) taken at Black Rock. Photo by: Paige Mino, UHM MOP Student DECEMBER 2016 |25

December Sun.

Next month:


-Jan 9: First day of Instruction -Jan 11: New Student Orientation & Camera Care Workshop -Jan 12: QUEST &MAST Information Meetings -Jan 16 & 18: QUEST Fish ID Classes -Jan 22: MOP Back to School BBQ -Jan 23&25: WUEST Invert ID Classes -Jan 30: QUEST Limu ID Classes











Sunday’s at the Bay Hanauma Bay 3 - 4 pm

Sunday’s at the Bay Hanauma Bay 3 - 4 pm










Sunday’s at the Bay Hanauma Bay 3 - 4 pm

Merry Christmas!!

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MOP & Community Events




















MOP Graduation 5:00 - 8:00 pm Dean Hall 104


S WEEK Luck!

DECEMBER 2016â&#x20AC;&#x192;|27

University of Hawai`i at MÄ noa Seawords, Marine Option Program College of Natural Sciences 2450 Campus Road, Dean Hall 105A Honolulu, HI 96822-2219 Address Service Requested

Thank you for reading! 28|â&#x20AC;&#x192;Seawords

December 2016 Seawords  
December 2016 Seawords  

The December 2016 of the Marine Option's Program Newsletter, Seawords