We've reached our goal and this study was able to take place in June 2020. Mahalo to all who supported this work!
Molokini Marine Preserve is a dramatic natural area off the coast of Maui, normally visited by 1,000 tourists EVERY day. During this time of COVID-19 when tourism is switched off and there are no tour boats and no snorkelers at Molokini, researchers have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to understand how human activity affects wildlife.
Molokini Crater harbors coral reefs as well as fishes, sharks, manta rays and other wildlife. Even though it's a marine protected area, tourism activity is very high at Molokini, with diving and snorkeling boats visiting continually. Now that there is no tourism, is the wildlife changing how it uses the reserve?
Led by Maui resident Russell Sparks, Aquatic Biologist, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources on Maui, a small team of scientists with expertise in animal tracking, underwater survey methods, wildlife ecology and past Molokini research experience is hoping to answer this question.
The team of Hawaiʻi-based scientists has extensive experience with coral reef ecology and animal movement studies in the Hawaiian Islands:
Alan Friedlander, Chief Scientist, Pristine Seas, National Geographic Society, and director of the Fisheries Ecology Research Lab at the University of Hawaiʻi. Friedlander has studied Molokini extensively and is the co-author of five research publications on Molokini conducted in collaboration with the Maui Division of Aquatic Resources.
Kevin Weng, Associate Professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
Whitney Goodell, National Geographic Fellow and marine ecologist with the Fisheries Ecology Research Lab, University of Hawaiʻi.
The scientists plan to work at Molokini this summer (May and June) to conduct diver surveys of fishes and other wildlife. They will install a network of tracking receivers and tag animals with telemetry devices. Vessel activity will be counted using a time-lapse camera. This builds on previous work conducted by Friedlander’s lab in collaboration with the Maui Division of Aquatic Resources and offers a unique opportunity to compare current conditions with a robust, existing baseline.
The scientists are donating their time and resources for this study and have organized some parts of the expedition. However, they require support in a number of areas, since the urgent nature of the project has prevented the normal routes of science funding and planning.
The scientists have permits to travel and go to work immediately at Molokini. They have a boat and captain, science equipment and telemetry tags ready to go.
They are now seeking funds for equipment transport, use of a car or a rental car, and financial support for supplies.
Please contribute to support this research. If you have a car or airline miles to offer, please contact us.
Mahalo for your support.
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