Palau – 2017

Expedition Summary

The 100 Island Challenge team based at Scripps Institution of Oceanography chartered the M/V Siren, a liveaboard dive vessel that exclusively conducts dive charters throughout the Palau region to survey coral reef habitat around the Republic of Palau. The goal of this research expedition was to conduct high-resolution ecological surveys of the nearshore coral reef habitats of the southern islands of Palau (Sonsorol, Fanna, Pulo Anna, Tobi, Helen Reef, and Merir), in addition to the main islands of Palau (Babeldoab, Angaur, and Kyangel).

Thte research team was comprised of scientists from across the globe and various agencies, including Moss Landing Marine Lab (USA), CARMABI (Curacao), Coral Reef Research Foundation (Palau), The Nature Conservancy (USA), and OneReef (USA). The Sandin Lab has a longstanding relationship with the non-profit agency OneReef, which provides invaluable support to work in Micronesia, and provided extensive support for this three-week expedition in Palau.

To accomplish the scientific goals of this research expedition, the team employed a collection of standardized approaches to quantify the structure and workings of the fish and benthic communities found at each island. In order to contextualize the coral reef habitats, temperature loggers were deployed across the surveyed islands to monitor temperature regime. Following an expeiditon to the southwest islands of Palau in December, 2014, temperature loggers that had been deployed were also recovered.

Generally, survey sites were identified randomly and each site was separated by 1-2 km of linear distance along the reef. In some cases (14 sites), sites that has been established in previous expeditions in 2014 and 2016 were re-surveyed to document and quantify change in the benthic and fish communities. Each site was georeferenced and by using standardized methods we are able to contextualize the status of coral reefs of Palau with reefs through the Pacific as part of the SIO Sandin Lab 100 Island Challenge (100islandchallenge.org).

In total, 86 photomosaics were collected across 8 islands in the southwest islands of Palau and the main islands of Babeldoab, Anguar, and Kayangel. Benthic photoquadrat images were taken at 74 sites across the archipelago, in addition to 86 sites were the fish assemblage was quantified.

Scientific Team

Dr. Stuart Sandin, Associate Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Dr. Brian Zgliczynski, Postdoctoral Researcher, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Lindsay Bonito, Staff Researcher, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Samantha Clements, Staff Researcher, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Mike Fox, Graduate Student, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Beverly French, Graduate Student, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Zach Caldwell, Diving Safety Officer, The Nature Conservancy

Dr. Scott Hamilton, Associate Professor, Moss Landing Marine Lab

Dr. Mark Vermeij, Director, CARMABI

June, Research Assistant, Coral Reef Research Foundation
Dr. Steve Lindfield, Researcher, Coral Reef Research Foundation