School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa

SOEST Press Releases 2010

Chip Fletcher

Dec 2: Chip Fletcher to receive EPA award for Climate Change Science

Dr. Charles (Chip) Fletcher, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, is at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‟s 12th annual Environmental Awards Ceremony held in downtown Los Angeles, California today, where he will receive an award for Climate Change Science.

Climate change is evident in Hawai'i. Surface temperatures are rising, rainfall and stream flow has generally decreased, rain intensity has increased, sea level and sea surface temperatures have increased, and the ocean is acidifying. These trends are likely to continue. Writing about these patterns, and their relevance to Pacific Island communities, has been the work of Dr. Fletcher, whose work is published in more than 100 peer-reviewed, international scientific journal articles and reports. He is also the author of “Living on the Shores of Hawaii: Natural Hazards, the Environment, and our Communities” published by University of Hawaii Press.

Link to the press release (PDF).

Image courtesy of SOEST

Sandpaper Rice Coral

Dec 2: To Be or Not to Be Endangered? Listing of rare Hawaiian coral species called into question.

Coral reef ecosystems are one of the most diverse habitats on the planet, providing habitat for a wide variety of marine animals. Unfortunately, coral reefs and their associated fish, algae, and invertebrate species are in worldwide decline. In 2009, 83 rare corals were petitioned to be listed under the United States Endangered Species Act. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service is currently reviewing the status of the coral on the petition. If the listing is granted, it will afford higher protection and designate critical habitat for these corals. But are all the ‘species’ on this list really species?

Link to the press release (PDF).

Image courtesy of Zac Forsman, HIMB/SOEST


Oct 20: Coral Algae (Symbiodinium) Discovered in Black Corals at Never Seen Before Depths

Scientists at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), examined 14 black coral species collected between 10 and 396 m from around Hawai‘i for the presence of algae using molecular and histological (tissue studies) techniques. Surprisingly, 71% of the examined species were found to contain algae, even at depths approaching 400 m. These black corals exhibited very similar traits to those of corals commonly found in shallow-water (use of algae). PhD student, Daniel Wagner at HIMB was the one who led the investigation. He states: “because black corals are predominantly found in deep and dark environments, most people assumed that they could not harbor these photosynthetic symbiotic algae. At this point we do not know how these algae are able to exist in extreme environments, and it certainly highlights how little we know about deep reefs.” 

Link to the press release (PDF).

Image courtesy of Daniel Wagner, HIMB/SOEST

Aug 19: UH Scientist Predicts Plastic Garbage Patch in Atlantic Ocean

Over 22 years undergraduates in the Sea Education Program collected plastic pieces at 6100 locations in the North Atlantic. The highest concentration of plastic they found was in the region predicted by the drifter-based model developed by IPRC’s Nicolai Maximenko, pointing out this model's usefulness in guiding ocean clean-ups.

Link to the press release (PDF). Read more about Maximenko's model.

Image courtesy of IPRC/SOEST


Aug 17: Creation of the First Frozen Repository for Hawaiian Coral

Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa have created the first frozen bank for Hawaiian corals in an attempt to protect them from extinction and to preserve their diversity in Hawaii. Mary Hagedorn, an adjunct faculty member at HIMB and a research scientist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, leads the laboratory at the HIMB research facilities on Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, that is banking the frozen coral cells.

Link to the press release (PDF).

Image courtesy of HIMB/SOEST

July 27: University of Hawaii Completes Three-Year Investigation of Military Munitions Sea Disposal Site

The University of Hawaii at Manoa’s School of Ocean Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) completed a three-year long investigation of Sea Disposal Site Hawaii Number 5 (HI-05), a deep-water military munitions disposal site in U.S. coastal waters approximately 5 miles south of Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.
This complex investigation required the use of high-resolution sidescan sonar and remotely operated underwater vehicles to locate sea disposed munitions in water as deep as 1,500 feet.  The SOEST’s Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory’s (HURL) two three-man PISCES research submersibles were deployed to validate the results of sonar data and take water and sediment samples in areas where military munitions were found.

Link to the press release (PDF). Read more about the HUMMA project on the HUMMA web site.

Image courtesy of HUMMA and HURL/SOEST

July 6: Longterm fate of Gulf oil spill in the Atlantic

The possible spread of the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon rig over the course of one year was studied in a series of computer simulations by International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) researchers Axel Timmermann and Oliver Elison Timm, and Oceanography PhD student Fabian Schloesser. In the simulation, eight million buoyant particles were “released” continuously from April 20 to September 17, 2010, at the location of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and were “tracked’ as they circulated around the Gulf of Mexico and moved into the Atlantic.

See the HD video on YouTube and download the SOEST press release (PDF).

Image courtesy of IPRC/SOEST.

April 7: Hawaiian submarine canyons are hotspots of biodiversity and biomass for seafloor animal communities

Underwater canyons have long been considered important habitats for marine life, but until recently, only canyons on continental margins had been intensively studied. Researchers from Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) and the Universtiy of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) have now conducted the first extensive study of canyons in the oceanic Hawaiian Archipelago and found that these submarine canyons support especially abundant and unique communities of megafauna (large animals such as fish, shrimp, crabs, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins) including 41 species not observed in other habitats in the Hawaiian Islands The research is published in the the March issue of the journal Marine Ecology.  Link to the press release.

Media Page with Images and Videos

Photo credit: Eric Vetter, Craig Smith & the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory

April 1:Rapid response team investigates coral disease outbreak in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu

An outbreak of a disease called Montipora White Syndrome (MWS) was found in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu within the last month prompting an interagency response team composed of scientists and students to document the extent, spread and potential causes of the disease.  Members of the investigative team included scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), USGS National Wildlife Health Center and Bishop Museum.
Corals are the very foundation of our coral reef ecosystem and are under threat from overfishing, land-based pollution and emerging coral diseases.  Coral diseases have devastated the reefs of the Florida Keys, and MWS affects a prominent coral species (red rice coral or Montipora capitata) on Hawaii reefs and rapidly kills colonies in weeks.  The disease was originally discovered by Bob Tangaro, a boat driver at HIMB, who notified coral disease researcher Dr. Greta Aeby of his grisly discovery.  Mr. Tangaro is a member of the Eyes of the Reef Reporting Network, a program that trains community members to identify threats to Hawaii’s reef including coral disease.  Link to the press release.

Photo credit: Greta Aeby/HIMB/SOEST/ UHM

taape fish

March 30: UH Sea Grant - Aliens in Hawai‘i: Ta‘ape, introduced in the 1950’s, has spread across the archipelago

Ta‘ape, or bluestriped snapper, was introduced half a century ago by the Hawai‘i Division of Fish and Game. It is suspected of depleting native fishes, has been shunned by local fishermen and, new studies show, may have brought a nasty parasite to Hawai‘i. Two genetically distinct lineages of ta‘ape were introduced to Oahu – one from the Marquesas Islands in 1958 and three years later, one from the Society Islands. Studies by Dr. John Randall revealed that ta‘ape quickly became established and spread across the entire archipelago, and now can be found at high densities on many reefs in Hawai‘i including in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Monument) in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI).

While it was clear that ta‘ape had spread throughout the islands, no studies had been conducted to determine if both introductions were successful. Using advanced genetic technology, Michelle Gaither, University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program-supported graduate student, demonstrated that ta‘ape collected from across the archipelago have DNA fingerprints from both Marquesas and Society Islands. Link to the press release.

Photo credit: UH Sea Grant/ SOEST/ UHM

Hawaii Ocean Time-series logo

March 17: UH Manoa Researchers awarded Cozzarelli Prize by National Academy of Sciences

A team of oceanographers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) and Montana State University (MSU) have had their paper selected to receive the 2009 Cozzarelli Prize. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Editorial Board selects six PNAS papers to receive this prize, an award that recognizes outstanding contributions to the scientific disciplines represented by the National Academy of Sciences. The paper, titled “"Physical and biogeochemical modulation of ocean acidification in the central North Pacific," was selected as the winner in the Physical and Mathematical Sciences category, and outlines how CO2 levels have changed in the waters off Hawaii from the burning of fossil fuels. The paper was written by John E. Dore from MSU (who received his PhD at UHM in 1995), and UHM researchers Roger Lukas, Daniel W. Sadler, Matthew J. Church, and David M. Karl. It reports the results of nearly 20 years of time-series measurements of seawater pH and associated parameters taken at Station ALOHA (A Long-term Oligotrophic Habitat Assessment), a deep ocean observation station in the central North Pacific Ocean near Hawaii that has been conducting almost monthly research cruises to observe and interpret habitat variability and to track climate impacts on Hawaii‟s marine ecosystem. Link to the press release.

Photo credit: HOT/ SOEST/ UHM

Map of South America showing the permanent ground motion due to the 2010 Chile earthquake.  GPS processing done by James Foster and Ben Brooks from the UHM Pacific GPS Facility located in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, graphic created using GMT software.

March 8: UH Manoa Researchers help show how far South American cities moved in quake

The massive magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck the west coast of Chile last month moved the entire city of Concepcion at least 10 feet to the west, and shifted other parts of South America as far apart as the Falkland Islands and Fortaleza, Brazil.
These preliminary measurements, produced from data gathered by researchers from four universities and several agencies, including geophysicists on the ground in Chile, paint a much clearer picture of the power behind this temblor, believed to be the fifth-most-powerful since instruments have been available to measure seismic shifts. Link to the press release.

Photo credit: Pacific GPS Facility / SOEST / UHM

March 8: Punahou School wins 2010 Hawaii Ocean Science Bowl

On Saturday, March 6th, high school students from all over the state competed in the eighth annual Hawaii Regional competition for the National Ocean Science Bowl (NOSB), the “Aloha Bowl”. Five high school students from Punahou School won the competition, and will represent Hawaii in the National Ocean Science Bowl April 23-25 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Members of the winning team include (from left to right in picture) Maile Pujalet, Coach Dave Strang, Eric Liaw, Calder Atta, Ian Schools, and Shauna Ekimura. Maui High School’s Team A took second place, with Kealakehe High School coming in third. Link to the press release.

Photo credit: HOT/ SOEST/ UHM

Photo of Hawaiian islands from space

Feb 22: UH Manoa will Partner with University of Southern California on a New Center to Study the Deep Biosphere

Katrina J. Edwards, professor of biological sciences and Earth sciences in the University of Southern California’s (USC) College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, has been recommended for an award of a $25 million NSF grant to establish a new science and technology center: the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI). Edwards and her USC team will partner with several major research universities, including the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) and other national laboratories to study the “deep biosphere” beneath the oceans. Link to the press release.

Photo credit: NASA

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