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For Keiki (Kids)

New activities for learners of all ages are being developed by the 2005 "Boatload of Educators"!

Don't forget to follow the Research Expeditions

Dive with the scientists and explore the coral reefs....

Walk carefully in the bird colonies.......

Find strange new critters in a submarine at great depth.........

Grab your crayons!

Here are a few pages that you can print out and color. (coloring pages illustrated by Katherine Orr from a Pacific Reef Coloring Book. Text is also from that book).

Click on the images to get a larger version to print out.

The Reef at Night.  Click for a large image to print.The reef at night.

Coral animals spread out their tentacles to feed, and brittle starfish come out of their hiding places. Spiny lobsters and octopi come out to hunt for food and the Uhu, or parrotfish, wedges itself into a crack in the rocks and blows itself a cocoon of mucus to sleep in. The mucus cocoon helps to hide the scent of the parrotfish from predators.

Fish that sleep during the day come out to feed at night. Small red cardinalfish awake to eat plakton. The reef at night looks very different than during the day.


How are  reefs formed?  Click for a large image to print.How are reefs formed?

From time to time polyps produce eggs and sperm. These join to form a baby coral animal, called a planula (1), that drifts in the sea. If the planula finds a clean, hard surface, it attaches itself and turns into a polyp (2). The polyp grows and multiplies by budding (3). In this way, corals spread from one place to another.

Dead coral rock provides a hard surface where young coral can settle, but many other creatures settle there too. Often plants and sponges cover the surface before new polyps can attach. Or, plants may grow over young polyps and smother them. Reef animals such as sea urchins, parrotfish, snails, and limpets graze on the plants and sponges, making room for new corals to settle and grow.

Most corals grow about one half inch or one centimeter per year, so it takes hundreds of years for a coral reef to develop (4). Without the help of animals that feed on fast-growing plants, a reef could never develop.


Pacific reef members: the swimmers.  Click for a large image to print.Pacific reef members: the swimmers

Coral reef fish vary widely in shape, color, size and behavior. Some travel long distances, while others stay within a limited reef area.

Blue jacks are strong swimmers. They do not shelter in the reef, but may visit to hunt small fish for food. Some butterflyfish, by contrast may spend their whole lives near a single clump of coral. A school of damselfish swims above the coral, feeding on plankton.


The reef during the day.  Click for a large image to print.The reef during the day.

Two butterflyfish feed on a rock covered with limu (seaweed). Nearby, a moray eel pauses as a cleaner wrasse nibbles at the small parasites living among the teeth of the eel. The eel does not eat or chase the cleaner wrasse away. Instead the eel encourages the wrasse to remove pests by keeping its mouth open and remaining very still. In this way both fish benefit, the eel gets rid on parasites, and the wrasse gets a meal. This is called commensalism. Many creatures that live among the reef have developed different types of close relationships. In order to survive, one species must depend on the other.

The parrotfish makes scraping sounds as it bites chunks of dead coral, which are covered with a green film of plants called algae. The parrotfish digests algae and passes out coral skeleton as sand. It swims on as a school of milletseed butterflyfish glides past. Some butterlfyfish also feed on algae. Their grazing helps keep the fast-growing plants from covering the reef.


The coral reef is a living system.

Every plant and animal on the reef has a special role to play. Some animals are active by day; others are active by night. Each has its own living space. Each has certain kinds of food, and in turn may also be a source of food for others. Some animals create homes for others to live in. Many have close relationships, each providing something the other needs.

The coral reef is a balanced system where all things have thier special place and function. In a system, all things are related. All the plants and animals of the reef depend on each other.

Our whole earth is a system too. Does this mean coral reefs are important to us, even if we don't live near one?

Talk About It!

Life on the boats

Asked by Ohana Kahapea-Aquino from Kansas on Sep 16, 2002.
Aloha Bonnie,

(From Io): What team are you on? What are your duties and tasks as a team member? Where do you sleep? Do you catch fish to eat? Have you been on any sandbars?

(From Ka'ulu): Are you having a good time on the boat? Did you pack well? Is the water clean?

Answered by the NOW-RAMP Crew on Sep 17, 2002.
Aloha Io, Ka'ulu and company,

I am on the education team. Every day we update the website with cool information about our expedition and make videos about what we are doing. Sometimes we stay up really late trying to think up cool stories that students will like. We have lots of computer equipment and a satellite phone. The video goes through the phone and costs $7 a minute! Each video costs about $700 to sent to Honolulu where it is then posted on the web.

We are on the Rapture which is a 150-foot ship with big engines. There are about 3 people to each state room. Each room has a toilet, shower, and sink. It is pretty comfortable living.

We have not caught any fish. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is a National Wildlife Reserve, so fishing is not allowed. The divers have seen a lot of sharks and giant trevally or Ulua.

No sandbars, but a lot of beautiful reefs with awesome coral and marine life.

We are having a great time. Everyone works really hard. I am meeting a lot of amazing people: scientists, educators, the people that run the ship, and many others.

I packed a lot of things and brought a lot of snacks too.

The water here is beautiful. Greens and blues contrast with the white sands and black basalt landscapes.

I love you all. Check out the videos on this website!

Malama Pono,

Aunty Bonnie

Have you seen Sponge Bob?

Asked by Ka'ulu from Kansas on Sep 23, 2002.
Mommy wants to know if you've seen Sponge Bob recently!

Answered by the NOW-RAMP Crew on Sep 24, 2002.
That's really funny! We haven't seen him yet.

Giant basket sponges

Asked by Io from Kansas on Sep 23, 2002.
Has anyone seen any giant basket sponges?

Answered by the NOW-RAMP Crew on Sep 24, 2002.
We have not sen any in the shallow water areas. They may be in deeper water.

Celestial navigation

Asked by Ka'ulu from Kansas on Sep 23, 2002.
Are you practicing your sky navigation?

Answered by the NOW-RAMP Crew on Sep 24, 2002.
We have been watching the stars. The North star is getting higher and higher in the sky as we move north!

How long is your work day?

Asked by Ka'ulu from Kansas on Sep 23, 2002.
How long is your work day?

Answered by the NOW-RAMP Crew on Sep 24, 2002.
20 hours.

Questions for homework

Asked by Samantha on Nov 19, 2002.
Where can we ask questions about animals for homework?

Answered by the NOW-RAMP Crew on Nov 20, 2002.
Although we love to answer your questions, it often takes us up to two weeks now that we are finished with our voyages and are working in other jobs. We suggest that you try to find your answers with library books and other sources first so that you get your homework done in time. If you aren't in a hurry, or if you want to ask a question just for fun and not for homework, feel free to ask!

Reef plants

Asked by Allie from Cincinnati on Nov 24, 2002.
What kinds of plants are provided homes in coral reefs?

Answered by Karla McDermid of the NOW-RAMP Crew on Nov 25, 2002.
Many different kinds of algae are provided homes in coral reefs. Turf algae are important food sources for herbivorous (plant-eating) fish. Turf consists of low-growing mats of many different seaweeds. Some of these individuals are no thicker than a strand of your hair! Large foliose, or leafy seaweeds, also inhabit the reef. In the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands on the NOWRAMP 2 voyage, we found that Kallymenia, a red, leafy seaweed, was quite common.

Fish with spikes

Asked by Emily from Michigan on Jan 22, 2003.
Can you do a similar feature about fish with spikes for adaptation?

Answered by the NOW-RAMP Crew on Jan 23, 2003.
We'll keep this in mind for future articles. Although the voyages are over now, the results of our research will come out within the next year.

What are atolls, reefs and islands.

Asked by Andrew on Dec 11, 2003.
What is an atoll? What is a reef? What is an island

Answered by Andy from NOAA on Jan 5, 2004.
Although your question pertains to features found in areas beyond the Hawaiian Islands I am going to answer your question in relation to the Hawaiian Archipelago so that some of the geology can be explained.

The Hawaiian Islands are volcanic in origin and are formed from magma erupting from a hot spot in the Earth's mantle that is presently located about 50 miles south and east of Hilo Hawai'i. A new Hawaiian island, Lo`ihi is forming over the hot spot as I write this. For more information about Lo`ihi, visit this site:
The magma that is forming Lo`ihi is also of the same origin as the molten rock that is erupting from Kilauea volcano. When a submarine volcano breaks the surface of the ocean it becomes an ISLAND.

All the Hawaiian Islands rest atop the Pacific Plate, a solid chunk of the Earth's crust that actually floats on the denser molten rock beneath it. You can imagine a very light gas (the atmosphere) floating on top of dense water (the ocean) floating on top of denser hard material (the Earth's crust) floating on top of denser still molten rock as you move towards the Earth's core. The Pacific Plate, being a floating object in a puzzle of floating plates that makes up the entire surface of the Earth, is in constant motion and carries the Hawaiian Islands away from the hot spot, or roughly North and East, at the rate of about 3.4 inches per year. As the volcanic islands move away from the hot spot they cool, cease being active volcanoes, and begin to erode, sink, and collapse back into the sea.

As the ISLANDS are eroding coral reefs begin to form around their perimeter. Since the Hawaiian Islands are in sub-tropical waters, the water is warm enough to allow reef building corals to grow. After a few million years the corals surround the island forming a fringing REEF and grow towards the surface as the island which they ring sinks and erodes back into the sea. At around 5 - 10 million years the island has eroded almost below the surface and the corals have formed an extensive barrier REEF around the last remaining emergent land.

In a few more million years all features of the volcanic island have eroded and sunken below the surface and what remains is a coral ring surrounding a shallow lagoon with a few sandy islets, or motus, around the perimeter that have formed from coral rubble. This is an ATOLL. The defining features of an ATOLL are 1) a fore reef facing the ocean, 2) a back reef facing inwards, 3) a shallow lagoon in the interior and 4) sand and coral rubble islets on the perimeter. ATOLLS only form in waters warm enough to support stony coral growth, generally between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn with slight deviations due to warm currents.

Not all sunken volcanic islands form ATOLLS. Maro Reef in the NWHI is an example of a sunken volcanic island that does not have the features of an ATOLL. It may have been an ATOLL at one time and lost its defining features due to erosion, or it may never have been an ATOLL.

Take a look at the NWHI satellite images to see what the different features look like:

Laysan Island & people

Asked by Tatiana on May 25, 2004.
Is Laysan Island liveable and do people live on this island? Is there a lot of parks or places to see on the island?

Answered by Dan Suthers, onboard the Hi`ialakai on Oct 9, 2004.

Although people stay on Laysan temporarily, it isn't really a place for people: it's for the plants and animals that live there. A few US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Geological Survey stay on Laysan for periods of up to six months to oversee the restoration of the island to its
natural state. Their work includes pulling up invasive plants and replacing them with native plants, as well as watching over the bird species that occur only on this island. It is an interesting island to visit, but it does not have "parks" or other things oriented towards the
entertainment of people. See my September 24th article!

Dan Suthers

Seal foods

Asked by ZOE, AMBER, AND CARMEN on Jan 31, 2007.
What kinds of things do monk seals eat???

Answered by Paulo from UH on Jan 31, 2007.
Dear Zoe, Amber & Carmen,

Monk seals eat many animals found in the water- they feed on mostly fish, but also prey on animal often found in the seafloor (called a benthic habitat), such as octopus, as well as lobsters. Some young monk seals have even been observed eating sea cucumbers when they cannot catch anything else!


Diet of Box Jellies

Asked by Daniel from school project on Oct 23, 2007.
Can someone help me..I am trying to find information on specific marine life for a food chain project? I need to find out who eats what and it needs to be specific. My food chain currently consist of TIger shark, honu/spiny lobster, box-jelly fish...and it stops there. I cannot locate a specific thing that box-bellyfish eat and so on. If someone could give me a web site or other resources to get this information i would be most thankful. Daniel

Answered by Paulo from UH on Oct 23, 2007.
Hello, Daniel. Box jellies are predators that use their venom to hunt small fish and crustaceans. Prawns are particularly favored by young box jellies that have yet to develop the more powerful toxins needed to hunt larger prey such as fish. In turn, recently hatched green sea turtles (honu) is carnivorous, with jellies (a.k.a. jelly fishes) figuring prominently. Once honu become adult, they acquire a herbivorous diet, eating plenty of sea weed.

Good luck with your work!


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Word Hunt Puzzles (in PDF format) requested by Joshua







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