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expeditions/July 2007/Erik Franklin Interview
with Erik Franklin
by Keeley Belva
Erik Franklin. Credit: Paul Jokiel
Erik Franklin. Credit: Paul Jokiel
here to see where the Hi'ialakai is now.
here to see current data from the ship.
1. What is your affiliation, and where are you from?
am a research specialist at the Hawaii Institute of Marine
Biology (HIMB), which is a research institute within the
School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University
of Hawaii. I moved to Hawaii in 2005, and before that I worked
for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Rosenstiel
School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at the University
of Miami where I also earned a graduate degree in Marine
Biology and Fisheries.
born and raised in California and currently reside in Kailua
with my wife Giselle and daughter Eliza.
2. How did you become interested in your particular field/profession?
many people, I’ve always had a strong attraction to the ocean. It didn’t
really strike me that I could make a career working on or near the sea until
I was an undergraduate. At that time, I had several influential teachers such
as Mike Mullin, Paul Dayton, and Mike Gilpin that planted the seed for a career
in ecology and marine science. Their enthusiasm for the field was contagious
and propelled me on my journey. As I’ve continued down this path, I’ve
found that the diversity of projects, intellectual stimulation
of exploration and discovery, and outdoor aspects of field
research have kept me engaged and motivated in my work.
3. Have you worked in the Hawaiian Archipelago before?
Or the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands?
participated in field research off of Molokai and Oahu
and a multibeam mapping cruise off the coasts of Niihau
and Molokai. This is my second cruise to the Northwestern
Hawaiian Islands. Last year, I was a member of the collection
team for invertebrate genetic studies and the cruise data
manager. We worked at Nihoa Island, Gardner Pinnacles,
French Frigate Shoals, and Johnston Atoll.
4. Have you worked on a ship at sea before, such as this one?
is my third cruise on the Hi’ialakai and I truly enjoy
my time out to sea on this vessel. The experienced crew,
small boat fleet, and diving facilities make this an excellent
platform for operations of this type. We are very lucky to
have access to these resources as they make our jobs that
moving to Hawaii, my work involved mostly shore-based operations
from small boats in South Florida and the Florida Keys. I
would occasionally participate on longer research cruises
such as this one for several weeks at a time.
5. What are your areas of interest, or your expertise?
of interest is the intersection between applied marine ecology
and resource management. The majority of my experience is
in the sampling design, data collection, and analysis of
reef ecosystem and coral restoration monitoring programs
as well as population and stock assessments. My expertise
is in spatial aspects of the design and analysis of these
projects using geographic information system, statistical
analysis, and modeling software. I moved to Hawaii to work
for HIMB on a research partnership that supports the science
needs of the Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument.
I’m on this cruise as a member of the habitat characterization
team because of my prior experiences in Florida with benthic
habitat mapping and characterization. Our task is to ground
truth existing satellite derived habitat maps, record quantitative
metrics with transects surveys, and describe through narratives
and site photographs the geomorphology and biology of each
site we visit. This will both allow us to validate map accuracy
and improve the existing habitat classification system. This
work is vital because these maps provide the foundation for
an ecosystem-based approach to monitoring the marine populations
of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
6. What excites you about working with these organisms?
habitat characterization work involves taking in the entire
environment and the associated animals at each site so I
don’t focus on a particular group
of organisms but rather how they all compose the scene. I
rather enjoy the task because we get to visit many sites
to discover the unique attributes and describe the characteristics
of each location. I have also found that the abundance of
large organisms such as monk seals, sharks, and ulua (jacks) is what
truly makes the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands unique and exceptional. It is thrilling
to be in the water with these beautiful animals.
7. Any favorite stories about a particularly unique organism from your
field of interest, such as a unique story of working with them, their ecology
or unique adaptation the organism may have?
A few days ago, we were working
a site in the Midway Atoll lagoon when the largest ulua of
the trip paid us a visit. We estimated the fish’s length as 125 cm – an
impressive size. What struck me as memorable was the nonchalance
of this particular fish which would circle around us lazily
and occasionally nip at our field equipment. It swam slowly
within an arms reach, just keeping us company and checking
us out throughout the dive.
Giant Trevally. Credit: Erik Franklin
8. Why were you interested in coming on this expedition?
participated in this expedition to collect information to
increase the understanding of the ecosystem and contribute
to the protection of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
9. What do you hope to find during this research
We have a goal of characterizing 100 sites
during the trip. We would like to be able to validate the
use of the habitat maps for future monitoring activities
by demonstrating their accuracy. We are also interested
in examining trends of spatial heterogeneity that may occur
within a particular habitat type.
10. What do you think is the benefit of this work to conservation in
The project meets a fundamental need of the Monument in that
the surveys will validate and improve the habitat maps that
will then be used to monitor the marine populations of the
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
here for maps of the region