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You are here: /main/research expeditions/ 2005 RAMP/9_22_05 REAs

9/22/05 - Rapid Ecological Assessments
by David Nichols, State of Hawaii, DLNR, HIHWNMS

REA Team

Part of the rapid ecological assessment team prepares to enter
the water from the HI-1 at Maro Reef.

I finally had a chance to see the Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) team in action today. These guys work incredibly fast and are extremely thorough. The REA team consists of nine divers. There are coral, algae, invertebrate and fish specialists. The fish experts on this team include Darla White, Paula Ayotte and Kosta Stamoulis. When the REA team arrives at a dive site it is the fish folks that are the first in the water. They like to place the transect lines and perform their survey before the fish in the area are disturbed by the remaining team members as they assess the other marine life along the same transect lines. I think the coral, algae and invertebrate experts don’t mind letting the fish guys go first just in case there happens to be any hungry apex predators (i.e. sharks) in the area.

The fish team collect data on species abundance and the size distribution of the fish. These guys have to be on the ball -- they must identify fish quickly and correctly. It is impressive to watch them as they traverse the transect line, with clipboard in hand, recording information they will later enter into the database.

Darla White
Darla White pauses during the rapid ecological assessment for
fish at Maro Reef.

Darla White has participated on REA teams in the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) as well as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). One of the striking differences between the two areas is that she doesn't see the large ulua hiding here in the NWHI. They seem to be plentiful and quite fearless. In the MHI most ulua will run for shelter at the first sight of humans in the water. These islands/atolls provide a great opportunity to see a coral ecosystem that appears to be in balance as nature intended without the disruption of human impacts.

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