Sequencing At Sea

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Malden North Site


Sequencing At Sea

By Yan Wei                   

Sequencing at sea is not a trivial task. It is even more challenging for a molecular biologist who studies human diseases and is used to clean, state of the art molecular grade laboratory equipment. However, we did it! The marine molecular lab spaces span from behind the bar at the back deck for sample processing to a long bench in the bedroom for DNA extraction and sequencing library preparation. Then it moves towards the laundry room close to the hull for running the centrifuge, and finally ends at the owner’s cabin where the sequencer sits.


A Reef of Clones

                                                                A larger coral has escaped the size where it can be overgrown by crustose
                                                                algae and loves living on a reef surrounded by fast growing coralline algae


A Reef of Clones

By Mark Vermeij 

Coming to a pristine reef raises expectations. One of these expectations concerns the ways in which coral cover increases on reefs such as those of the Line Islands. Increasing coral cover is nowadays a rather rare phenomenon on most reefs, but on the reefs of Malden, corals cover most of the bottom in shallow water suggesting rapid coral growth of existing and broken or fragmented colonies. In addition to growth, coral cover is often believed to result from high levels of coral recruitment and similar to coral growth itself, coral recruitment rates have dropped enormously in most places. Coral recruitment is the landing of planktonic coral larvae from the water column followed by settlement and metamorphosis and believed to be the most important mechanism through which corals can “reseed” reefs that have experienced total destruction through storms or man-related actions.

Where Did The Trees Go?


                                 Starbuck Island: The majority of the trees on  the island                      Windswept Vostok Island: The vegetation of Vostok 
                                   are found in this one small grove of coconut palms.                       is composed almost exclusively of the native Pisonia tree


Where Did The Trees Go?

By Stuart Sandin

We have arrived to Starbuck island, the first of our stops in the more nutrient-rich waters of the southern Line Islands. Lying at about 6 degrees south latitude, we are now within about 350 nautical miles from the equator. A tongue of cooler water pokes into the Line Island archipelago from about this latitude in the south to about 3 or 4 degrees north latitude. It is because of this variation in oceanographic conditions that we are visiting these islands. While our goal is certainly to study the undersea biology, we start with the topside of each island.

Widening Our View Of The Reef


Widening Our View of the Reef

By Gareth J. Williams

We are hundreds of miles away from civilization in the middle of the south Pacific Ocean when a tiny thin speck of land comes into view. It is Starbuck Island in the Southern Line Islands. The bright white sand reflects the morning sun and a few lone palm trees huddle together. As we jump in the water on our first day I am faced with a very different looking reef to that of Vostok Island just a few days ago.

Vostok Benthic Tents


Vostok Benthic Tents

Maggie Johnson

The second stop on our research cruise traversing the southern Line Islands brought us to Vostok Island. The morning after we departed Flint, we woke at 5am to find the tiny, triangular island to our starboard.  We circumnavigated the island in an attempt to find the leeward side, out of the wind and with the calmest wave action. This proved tricky on such a small island, where there is little shelter from the elements.  As a member of the benthic research team we study organisms on the benthos, or those attached to the sea floor.  We came to this remote underwater paradise to better understand the structure and function of coral reefs that have been untouched by humans.  This is a truly unique opportunity because there are very few intact coral reef systems left on the planet.  Intact systems are those that are dominated by hard corals and a healthy population of top tier predators (sharks!).  

Corals and Algae - The Faceoff


Corals and Algae - The Faceoff

by Emily Kelly

What an incredible experience we've all had on this research cruise so far.  Reflecting on Flint as we depart, I am struck by the incredible health and beauty of the reef there - with the overwhelming coral cover with very little algae present.  

Where Are All The Herbivores?

Where Are All of the Herbivores?

By Emily Kelly

In the community of coral reef managers and conservation practitioners, there is general consensus that herbivores are a critical component of the reef community. The herbivorous fishes that eat seaweed help to control the growth of these fleshy algae that compete with corals for space on the bottom. When too many herbivorous fishes are removed from a reef, the algae can grow with fewer constraints. In the worst case, this unrestricted algal growth can result in a reef losing most of its corals and becoming something of an algal landscape.

A World of Coral

A World of Coral

By Stuart Sandin

We have arrived at Flint Island in the Republic of Kiribati. Flint is a small and elongated island, approximately 4km north-to-south and about 500m across at its widest. The island is uninhabited, though in the past groups of people lived here to mine guano (seabird droppings used as fertilizer) and to grow copra (the meat of coconuts used principally to make coconut oil). The profile of the island reflects its history, with the native vegetation filling in the gaps between the coconut palms that were introduced in the late 1800s. Despite the temptation to explore the land, we are here to focus on the coral reefs that fringe the island.

Let the Journey Begin

The Expedition Begins
By Stuart Sandin


Our destination is the Line Island archipelago of the Republic of Kiribati, but today we are in the Society Islands of French Polynesia. The research team has assembled here in Tahiti to meet our vessel, the Expedition Yacht Hanse Explorer. In a few hours we will be escorted out of the port and into the open Pacific Ocean – our first stop is Flint Island, the southernmost of the Line Islands.

2013 Expedition: Journey to the Southern Line Islands


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