Okinawa – 2019

Dates: July 7 – August 5, 2019
Lead Organization: SIO & Okinawa Institute of Science & Technology
Partners: University of the Ryukyus


Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO)
Dr. Brian Zgliczynski, Postdoctoral researcher
Lindsay Bonito, Staff Researcher
Chris Sullivan, Staff Researcher
Sho Kodera, Staff Researcher
Gabe Turner, Volunteer Diver

Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST)
Satoshi Miturai, Professor
Kazumi Inoha, Research Technician
Kirk Sato, Postdoctoral Researcher

University of the Ryukus (UR)
James Reimer, Professor
Kohei Hamamoto, Graduate Student
Hirotaka Yamagiwa, Graduate Student
Masaru Mizuyama, Graduate Student

Over the past two years, the Sandin Lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Mitarai Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) worked towards building a strong partnership, culminating in a join research agreement signed in October, 2018. Dr. Mitarai had first visited Scripps in late 2016 to visit research labs and establish collaborations with researchers working in coral reef ecosystems. With the help of Dr. Kirk Sato, a postdoctoral researcher at OIST and former doctoral student at Scripps, Dr. Mitarai and Dr. Sandin were successful in formalizing the partnership.

Shortly thereafter, a jointly led workshop was held at OIST bringing together coral reef researchers from across the globe to discuss “Cross-regional perspectives of coral reef structure and function”. Academics and practitioners spent three days brainstorming solutions for barriers that limit international comparisons and collaborations and discussing new opportunities for future projects, given the diverse group of attendees. The participants represented 10 different agencies across six nations/territories.

In addition to the workshop, the two institutions planned and executed a month-long expedition as part of the 100 Island Challenge to survey the coral reefs of Okinawa. The Reimer Lab at University of the Ryukyus joined the expedition and were integral to making the expedition a success, assisting with logistics and sediment sampling for eDNA.

The expedition team was able to complete a full suite of surveys for each island, which included fish biomass and abundance surveys, photoquadrat collection for benthic cover, benthic community structure and cover (mosaics), and deployment of temperature loggers to contextualize the oceanographic conditions at each island. Additionally, the dive team deployed a 360-camera system to create virtual reality products for outreach and communication opportunities. A total of 61 sites were surveyed; 14 in Okinawa, 18 in the Yaeyama islands, 15 in Miyako, and 14 in the Kerama islands. The 100 Island Challenge team will return to Okinawa in 2021 to re-survey the established sites to document change in the reef communities there.