Scientist: Randall Kosaki, Ph.D., Research Coordinator,
Div. of Aquatic Resources Division, Hawai`i State Department
of Land and Natural Resouces
Posted by Mark Heckman,
Educator, Waikiki Aquarium/ University of Hawai`i - Manoa
did you come to be Chief Scientist on this cruise? Tell
me a bit of the path that brought you here?
was born and raised in Honolulu. You could say that what
I'm doing now resulted from a "hobby" that spiraled
way out of control. I've always been a water person, more
at home in the sea than on land. My favorite pastimes were
always skin diving, scuba diving, fishing, and similar things,
and so it seemed natural to pursue marine biology in college
and graduate school.
is my third trip up here. My first trip to the NWHI was
twenty years ago as an undergraduate student at UH, during
the Tripartite research cruises involving the State, the
Federal Government, and the University. So I have seen a
bit of the evolution of research in the Northwestern Hawaiian
Islands. Twenty years ago we did much of the same research,
characterizing marine habitats, looking at fish and invertebrate
populations and abundances, but the this was resource assessment
with an eye towards consumption - what is here that we can
take back and use or sell. Now, just twenty years later,
the focus of our research has turned around 180 degrees.
We are now asking questions such as: What is special about
this place? How can we preserve this for future generations?
Really, this is a fairly short time span in which to see
such a dramatic turn about in attitudes, from consumption
to preservation; to ask, what can we do, so we do not have
to apologize to our children, or their children, for what
we have allowed to happen to the reefs in our lifetime."
were some of your hopes for this trip and how did they turn
are two levels that I can answer this on. As a Chief Scientist,
I was hoping for good weather, that everyone would be able
to complete the work they came to do, and most importantly,
that we could execute this mission safely without injuries
or other mishaps. I think that we succeeded far beyond my
expectations. We completed over 1300 dives; this is a phenomenal
amount of work for 28 days. Everybody went out and worked
hard without complaint to get things done, working long
hours under sometimes challenging ocean conditions. I think
this is a reflection of the caliber of the people that came
aboard and my position was just to facilitate that as best
another level, I was really happy to see a strong education
component on board, so that the research could get out to
the public and into the classroom. And I think this was
important for the researchers to see and understand as well
- that it is not just their peers that they need to share
information with, but with their public constituents as
well. I like to think this has influenced the way they view
their research. That they see it is of immediate value to
the people of the state. We also included a cultural research
component for the first time. I think we all learned something
extra about respect for these islands and reefs because
of this. The ancient Hawaiians were the first to use the
"seamless ecosystem" approach to management, something
that modern resource managers are only now turning to. I
like to think that when the best of ancient wisdom and modern
science converge on the same idea, that we're on the right
track. I think this experiment in cross-fertilization between
research, education, and culture was a great success."
me an example of a time or event during the expedition that
sort of typifies the trip for you.
think being out in a small boat with the research dive team
doing our transects day after day really builds camaraderie,
and the daily routines I experience with my teammates typify
the trip for me. The nice days are great, of course, but
the bad days in driving rain and big seas may actually build
that team spirit even faster. There's something about shared
misery that does that. The daily routine of diving, interspersed
with periods in the boat, kind of create a composite typical
day in my mind, one that combines the best and worst of
the conditions we experienced. But through it all, your
team is always there for you, and that human side to the
research is what I'll take away from this trip.
favorite moments of the trip were the few times I was able
to skin dive between working scuba dives. Without the heavy
scuba hardware, I feel much more maneuverable and fishlike.
It was a privilege to skin dive with the large ulua (jacks).
Just to see the kind of fish that you never see back home,
doing what they do best, patrolling the reef, hunting, inspecting
us - absolutely fearless. I believe that is what this is
all about. Seeing what it was like before human exploitation,
being reminded by the predators that we are only visitors
in their realm. From that, we can get an idea of what we
want for the main Hawaiian Islands - and setting the bar
high for what they can be. I think we can get there."
Talk About It!
Is the Crown of Thorns Starfish an Invasive Threat?
Asked by Aaron from university student on Sep 2, 2003.
My name is Aaron Gehris and I am a university student at East Stroudburg University of Pennsylvania. I was wondering if you could answer a few questions. From your recent research do you consider the crown of thorns starfish to be a serious threat to numerous reefs of Hawaii? Can they be called invasive? I am doing a research project on them and am looking for any information on them as it relates to Hawaiian coral reef ecosystems. If you can at least direct me to someone who may know I would very much appreciate it.
Answered by Randy Kosaki on Sep 3, 2003.
It is not uncommon to see several white Pocillopora meandrina skeletons in the vicinity of an Acanthaster, presumably recent meals of the coral predator. Fortunately, P. meandrina is a species that recruits readily and grows rapidly, so over time the losses to the population from Acanthaster predation are offset by recruitment and growth of new colonies.
Currently, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia (the only marine
protected area in the world that is larger than the NWHI) is in the midst of a major Acanthaster outbreak. The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has a strong program in coral reef monitoring, including Acanthaster densities. Their web site (http://www.aims.gov.au/pages/research/reef-monitoring/reef-monitoring-index.html) provides updates on Acanthaster survey techniques and results, as well as photographs of very high densities of Acanthaster.