As a graduate student and former intern with NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC intern, I will be combining overlapping Catlin Seaview Survey and NOAA datasets to learn even more about the marine ecosystems in Timor-Leste.
The Catlin Seaview Survey shallow reef team went on a scientific expedition to Timor-Leste last July and captured high-resolution imagery of shallow water coral reef habitats along the northern coastline.
From 2012 to 2014, NOAA’s PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division collected a myriad of data that included Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS), coral surveys, and fish surveys to support marine research and conservation in the region. This was made possible with funding from USAID Timor-Leste, in collaboration with the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) and with generous support from Conservation International. Check out their blog for more detailed information.
I spent last week at NOAA’s new Inouye Regional Center on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawai‘i subsampling the preserved Brachyuran crabs (true crabs as opposed to hermit crabs etc.) from the ARMS NOAA deployed and recovered in Timor-Leste. In this case, subsampling meant taking a crab leg as a separate sample for future DNA analysis. There were about 300 crabs collected from ARMS across northern Timor and I barely finished in a week! I like to think of ARMS as ‘invertebrate hotels’ that NOAA set out on the reef to systematically study the cryptobiota, or hidden critters, that live on coral reefs.
Corals are important habitat builders on reefs, much like trees in a forest, and provide habitat for many communities of animals. I am hoping to use the crabs as an index for marine biodiversity and relate it to the community structure of the corals based on image analysis from the Catlin Seaview Survey imagery. It is only the early stages of my research and it is exciting to be able to initiate a partnership between the Catlin Seaview Survey and NOAA in an effort to better understand the coral reefs of Timor-Leste.