Science Objectives – the Heart of the Coral Triangle Expedition

1.    Baseline documentation of 15 selected sites ( five sites per vessel)
a)    transect survey of live coral coverage
b)    number of hard coral species
c)    number of soft coral species
d)    number of ornamental fish species

2.    Sea surface sampling of micro plastic at nine sites – three sites per vessel
During the expedition we will deploy a manta net from the side of each using a spinnaker boom, lines and karabiners set up.

3.    Blue and black water survey – five sites per vessel
During the expedition, we will be conducting blue water (day) and black water (night) documentation of species found in this zone. We will conduct sampling and photographic documentation of species in open-ocean environs.

4.    Fish Biomass Survey – five sites per vessel
These surveys are carried out using an underwater visual census method; buddy teams will lay out 30m transect tapes and then swim along them identifying relevant fish observed within 2m on either side of the tape. Each fish is identified to the species level and its length is recorded. After each transect, the team will conduct a roving survey. This involves identifying any species of grouper, jacks, butterflyfishes, snapper or sweetlips that can be seen whilst swimming along for a set distance. These methods enable an understanding of the abundance and biomass of selected fish species at each surveyed site.

5.    Manta Habitats
Mantas are found in at least five known sites within the expedition route. Our aim is to build a representative picture of these cleaning station environments. Research shall focus on fish speciation and biomass, coral coverage, and impact from marine tourism.  

6.    Mangrove Habitats – two sites per vessel
Our surveys at these sites focus on the health index of mangroves and the diversity of fish and coral species. Buddy teams will conduct visual and photographic documentation across 100m transects.

7.    Whale Sharks
Whale sharks are found in at least two known locations within the expedition route. Our aim is to conduct a 24-hour observation to grasp a better understanding of the species and their behaviour in these two locations.  

8.    Assessment – damaged reefs
The expedition comprises of both aerial and underwater photographic and visual survey of reefs affected by illegal fishing methods and warm temperatures.

Outcome
1.    A Report Card of the health of the reefs in the Birds Head Peninsula.  
2.    Images and research procured from the expedition will be assembled to produce a limited edition photographic book, video documentaries, and photographic index.
3.    A series of exhibitions worldwide from April 2019