Science Sunday: NOAA and the Coral Reef Monitoring Program

The National Park Service in Guam hosts Science Sunday presentations, free to the public.  Today’s presentation featured scientists straight off the NOAA research ship Hi’ialakai.  They’re passing through Guam as part of their Mariana Archipelago Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program, a research mission that takes place once every three years to monitor the coral reefs and fish life throughout this region of the world.

The plethora of data they collect is provided to local and global communities to further our research and knowledge about such topics as fish biomass and coral reef bleaching.  They’re able to safely collect samples as part of their three-year studies and map the DNA found from their collections to pinpoint the exact species represented on our coral reefs.

Though oceans make up more than 70% of the earth’s surface and are an essential part of the ecosystem that helps sustain life on this planet, we’ve explored less than 5% of our oceans.  That fact really hits home here at the edge of the deepest place on earth, the Marianas Trench, which is more than 36,000 feet deep.  Clearly, there is still so much of our own planet that we have yet to discover.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is working hard to further that knowledge. According to the NOAA website:

NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research is leading efforts to explore the ocean by supporting expeditions to investigate and document unknown and poorly known areas of the ocean. These expeditions represent a bold and innovative approach by infusing teams of scientist-explorers with a “Lewis and Clark” spirit of discovery and equipping them with the latest exploration tools.

From mapping and describing the physical, biological, geological, chemical, and archaeological aspects of the ocean to understanding ocean dynamics, developing new technologies, and helping us all unlock the secrets of the ocean, NOAA is working to increase our understanding of the ocean realm.

My kids enjoyed the talk immensely.  We recently returned from scuba diving in Palau, which only heightened their love of the ocean, so this presentation was a timely topic of interest for them.  Though the scientists discussed their excruciatingly long days in and out of the water, collecting and analyzing data, they all insisted that it was the coolest job in the world.  They work hard, but love what they do.

When asked how kids might pursue a job as a marine biologist on a NOAA research vessel, we received some great tips:

  • It starts with a love for ocean life.
  • Education is important, particularly math and science, but also computer programming.  Once the data is collected, it needs to be recorded and analyzed, which takes a lot of technological skills.
  • Be willing to work hard.
  • Seek out projects in your field of interest to work on.  Volunteer to work on projects for free, which will give you experience and lead to good mentors, contacts, and career opportunities.
  • Be a good team member to those around you.  Spending months out at sea on a research vessel and engaging in potentially dangerous work scuba diving and collecting data everyday takes the cooperation and diligence of every single person on the ship.

Click here to track the MARAMP story and map the progress of the Hi’ialakai as it continues its journey across the Pacific Ocean.

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