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Phoenix Islands Protected Area

In June 2012, three individuals from our lab (Hannah Barkley, Kathryn Rose and Pat Lohmann) flew into Apia, Samoa where we joined the crew of the vessel Nai’a ( for a month long expedition to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). The fourth member of our team Jay Andrew, a research scientist at the Palau International Coral Reef Center flew in from Palau. The Phoenix Islandsare part of the island nation of Kiribati, which partnered with the New England Aquarium and Conservation International to create PIPA in 2008. Today it is one of the world’s largest marine protected areas and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Our expedition was a joint venture between Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) and Conservation International (CI).

The main goals for our team were to evaluate the recovery the corals and coral communities from a massive bleaching event that hit the area in 2002. We also took water samples and deployed instruments that allow us to characterize the carbonate system chemistry (pH, pCO2, aragonite saturation state), temperatures and nutrient concentrations of seawater on the reefs. These data will help us to better understand the effects of ocean acidification and warming on the reef communities in the PIPA. For more on this expedition and our at-sea activities, see our blog

M/V Nai’a (Hannah Barkley, WHOI)
Expedition team members Pat and Jay hold a carefully collected coral core sample. (Keith Ellenbogen)