Research Programs

The application of passive acoustics to assess, monitor, and protect the coral reef ecosystems of the U.S. Pacific Islands

Kevin Wong
NOAA Fisheries
Honolulu Laboratory
Coral Reef Ecosystem Investigation (CREI)
2570 Dole Street
Honolulu, HI 96822
(808) 592-7012

In addressing the two fundamental themes of The National Action Plan to Conserve Coral Reefs, to understand coral reef ecosystems and reduce adverse human impacts, the Coral Reef Ecosystem Investigation (CREI) was established at NOAA Fisheries Honolulu Laboratory to assess, monitor, map, restore, and protect the coral reef ecosystems of the U.S. Pacific Islands. CREI activities include rapid ecological assessments of fish, corals, algae and invertebrates, towed diver digital video habitat and fish surveys, acoustic seabed classification surveys, towed video and still camera surveys, and in-situ and satellite remote sensing observations of oceanographic conditions. The in-situ oceanographic observations include closely spaced conductivity-temperature-depth-chlorophyll casts, acoustic Doppler current profiler surveys, long-term moored oceanographic buoys, surface velocity drifters, and APEX diurnally migrating profiling drifters. While the oceanographic moorings and satellite remote sensing allow high temporal resolution monitoring of the physical processes driving these ecosystems, the remoteness of these ecosystems prevents adequate temporal monitoring of the biological responses (surveys can only be conducted at 1-2 year intervals). CREI is involved in integrating and developing passive acoustic techniques to monitor aspects of the health of these remote ecosystems and to develop warning systems to alert scientists and resource managers of large changes or potential threats. Passive acoustic techniques are also proposed to monitor vessel traffic and illegal incursion into marine protected areas.

photo of an acoustic doppler current profiler

An acoustic doppler current profiler is bundled with a conductivity recorder, temperature recorder, larval settling plates, and a 24-month power supply. This sea-floor ocean data platform used to monitor conditions at remote coral reef ecosystems of the U.S. Pacific Islands.

Photo of a diver

A scientific diver collects species abundance and diversity data during a rapid ecological assessment (REA) of Kingman Reef, a National Wildlife Refuge located about 932 miles southwest of Hawaii.


Photo of a monitoring station
A monitoring station equipped with instruments to measure wind vectors, air temperature, sea surface temperature, photosynthetic available radiation, and other parameters is being towed into position near an atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Data from buoys such as this are telemetered, via satellite, so that conditions can be monitored by NOAA’s Honolulu Laboratory and the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory’s Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS).


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