Drew Harvell’s Palmyra diary

My friend, colleague and post doc mentor Dr Drew Harvell of Cornell Uni is on Palmyra Atoll, a tiny coral island in the central Pacific.  Drew is leading a coral disease workshop and doing field work on this very pristine coral reef.  I’m jealous!  She is blogging about her work and experiences here.  See more of her pictures here.

Friday– Another day, another adventure.  Having survived the night with the forest and cabin full of cane spiders, we had a pretty uneventful day. A rather packed morning of fantastic talks about coral disease in the Pacific, highlighting the phenomenal progress we have made in the last decade in our understanding. Greta Abey described her group’s success in identifying another Vibrio causative agent for a white syndrome of Acropora.   Bette Willis described how Typhoon Yasi (remember the flooding in Townsville and Brisbane?)  and the tourist pontoon platforms create seas of unhealthy coral, but Australia MPAs seem to be protecting reef health as well as fish. And the phenomenal coral health surveys that Bernardo Vargas-Angel and colleagues have collected at 50 sites in the most remote parts of the Pacific.  By noon, we were talked out and ready for lunch followed by a dive to Penguin Point, a site of the forereef.

As promised, within  5 minutes of starting the dive, a manta ray showed up to escort us to the reef.  Large expanses of complete coral cover greeted us. Then soon, a small blacktip shark came to visit.  Next we came on a large spawning aggregation of snappers—whirling around in a large ball of about 40 fish.  After that, I was settling into photographing a corals with anomalous health issues, such as a Turbinaria sp with bleached spots and a Hydnophora with white patches, when in cruised a rather larger grey reef shark. It was fun watching it scout amoung us, with Bette unaware as it passed inches from her fins…

Check out more from Drew here

Joanne Wilson inspecting Acropora tumors by Drew Harvell

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