Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Connectivity
Ecosystem Monitoring Studies
Coral Health Assessment Program
Maps and Data
Science Management Integration and Communications
Science Terms Glossary
Understanding microhabitat variability across coral reef systems
The Research Problem
We are interested in processes that underlie food webs across the Hawaiian Archipelago, and our primary research lies in two areas:
To study these problems we combine sensor data on flow and chemical conditions on the reef with molecular or other biological data to examine the interaction of physics, chemistry and biology in a natural ecosystem. To examine the effects of bioerosion we combine our data with measurements of bioerosion rates and species composition of eroding communities.
To determine the role of terrestrial (land) sources on coastal food webs we are combining, local physical and chemical data with isotope analysis and the use of microbial source tracking that allows us to determine the sources of bacteria in the water using organism specific molecular tracers. Combining this molecular data with information on currents and chemical conditions in the water will allow us to estimate the degree to which seabirds and other organisms contribute to the local coastal nutrient loads.
We have just completed our first cruise to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument) and are awaiting the return of samples and data so that we can begin to analyze our results. Our preliminary results show that there is a great deal of small-scale variation in the physical environment across the reef and that these are correlated to variations in chemical condition such as local pH.
Understanding how the physical and chemical environment interact on a reef and how this interaction varies across reefs of different structure and exposure to terrestrial input will tell us much about what underlies food web structure in coral reef systems. Understanding this basis for the food web will allow for greater prediction of the impact of perturbations to the food web and the physical environment associated with anthropogenic influence and global shifts in climate.